Independent inspection powers missing from draft Mental Health bill
22 March 2012
WA Greens Spokesperson for Mental Health Alison Xamon has called for independent inspection powers to be included in the draft Mental Health Bill as a matter of urgency.
“A very concerning omission in this draft Bill is the lack of independent inspection provisions for mental health services,” Ms Xamon said.
“This is a significant departure from the current situation in which there is a well-respected and valuable independent body in the form of the Council of Official Visitors.
“This Council shines a frank and fearless light on the places where we treat our most vulnerable people, such as facilities for involuntary mental health patients, where people are unable to leave at will and has been at the forefront of exposing some of the more serious deficiencies within our mental health system.
“Yet the draft Bill makes no provision for an independent monitoring body reporting to Parliament on the safety and suitability of these facilities.
“The individual complaints system that is proposed in the Bill is welcomed, however it does not go far enough. Inspection systems should not only react to individual complaints, but must be proactive and focus on systemic improvements as the current Council of Official Visitors does.
“Regular independent assessment visits are a critical part of this process, as are formal inspections.
“At the very least, the same independent protections which are afforded to prisoners (in the form of the Office of Custodial Services) should also be afforded to people in secure mental hospitals.
“The benefits of independence are numerous, and include a higher degree of public and Parliamentary accountability, better public understanding, and support for the activities of agencies and staff.
“In addition, Australia has obligations under international agreements, which will shortly be ratified, to establish independent inspection systems for all places of detention, including locked mental health facilities. The proposed model does not meet these requirements.
“Although the draft Bill is in many ways an improvement on the existing legislation, the proposal to diminish the role of independent oversight cannot be allowed to slip through the cracks.
“I call upon the Mental Health Minister to indicate that she will address this shortcoming by amending the draft legislation, as a matter of priority.”
Hon Alison Xamon MLC
Member for the East Metropolitan Region
Office: 62 Eighth Ave Maylands WA 6051
Postal Address: PO Box 104 Maylands WA 6931
Phone: (08) 9272 1718
Fax: (08) 9272 1719
Portfolios: Water, Urban Bushland, Mental Health, Education, Training, Industrial Relations, Employment, Occupational Health & Safety, Disabilities, Women, Children & Youth, Public Service, Community Services,Electoral Affairs, Consumer Protection, Vet Affairs, Volunteering