Mental Health Units (Use of Force Bill) set to become law

Posted On: 
30th October 2018

Today the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill – also known as Seni’s law - has passed its final debate in the House of Lords meaning that it’s set to become law.

The Bill was proposed by Steve Reed - MP for Croydon North - following the devastating death of his constituent Seni Lewis in 2010. Seni died at just 23, after being restrained on a mental health ward by 11 police officers. At the inquest into Seni’s death, the restraint used was deemed to be excessive, unreasonable and disproportionate. Seni's family have campaigned tirelessly over many years to change the law around the use of force, and thousands of Mind campaigners urged their MPs to get behind the Bill. Now finally all the hard work has paid off.

We know that using force to control someone’s behaviour when they are unwell can be a humiliating and traumatising experience, so this is great news for those of us who may experience a mental health crisis.

Steve Reed: Seni’s law will make sure the system learns when things go wrong

The new law will mean:

  • Mental health hospitals must actively take steps to reduce the use of force against patients, including by providing better training on managing difficult situations.
  • Better data will now have to be collected, which will enable us to keep an eye on progress and highlight any problem areas.
  • Police will need to wear body cameras when called to mental health settings, which can be used in evidence.

Helena Brown, Parliamentary and Campaigns Manager at Mind said:

“We’re delighted this Bill is progressing towards becoming law. Once passed, it will help improve the safety of people experiencing a mental health crisis. When someone is having a mental health crisis they may be suicidal, self-harming or in psychosis, and very frightened or distressed. No matter what happens, they need to be treated with care and compassion and need help, not harm.

“In the last ten years in England, we’ve seen a 47 per cent rise in the Mental Health Act being used to detain people. It’s appalling that people from some black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are still much more likely to be sectioned than those from white backgrounds. The increase in detentions demonstrates that the Act, and wider mental health care, fails to support people when they are acutely unwell, especially people from BAME communities. The passing of this law will take us a step closer to tackling the inequalities still embedded in today’s mental health care.

"Steve Reed MP should be commended for spearheading such an important Bill. We are proud to have worked alongside our sector colleagues and over 1,000 Mind campaigners to help drive this forward and will continue to raise awareness of this issue as this Bill becomes law.”