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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Strong criticism of the Mental Health Bill with particular regard to the care and treatment of children

Insane! Stop the Mental Health Bill - The Independent


"The Independent on Sunday today urges all MPs to read the story of one child's treatment under Britain's current outdated and draconian mental health laws.

Jack Owen was just 16 when he was sexually assaulted by a male patient, verbally abused and locked up in a windowless cell on an adult psychiatric ward. His story, told here for the first time, is a damning indictment of Britain's mental health service.

Tomorrow, the Government will attempt to force through its mental health reforms - reforms that this newspaper opposes and which experts warn ignore the care and treatment needs of thousands of vulnerable children like Jack.

The IoS has been campaigning for nearly five years for the rights of people with mental health problems to be respected. The campaign has been backed by leading medical and psychiatric experts as well as figures from politics, the media and the arts. Lord Bragg described the campaign as: "Useful, important and corrective. There have been an awful lot of injustices and an awful lot of neglect. Exposing what is going on is very important.

Now we are calling on MPs to accept a series of amendments put forward by the House of Lords, which psychiatrists, mental health charities and patients have said would help to create laws fit for the 21st century.

These include the demand that children be treated in wards suitable for their age, not with adults, and be assessed by specially trained professionals.

Today we also publish figures from the charity Young Minds which expose the "national scandal" of how children as young as 12 are incarcerated with often extremely disturbed adults and end up more traumatised than when they went in for treatment.

The study found that one child every day is admitted to an adult mental health ward under section; that more than three-quarters of girls are detained on mixed-sex wards; that the average stay is at least one month; and that children face a postcode lottery over beds.

Kathryn Pugh, head of policy at YoungMinds said: "Unless changes are made in the law, children will continue to be at risk, and their chances of recovery seriously jeopardised.""