Funding for the black-led voluntary sector has been discussed at Downing Street as part of the ongoing review of the Mental Health Act, the law governing mental health in England and Wales.

The event took place ahead of draft recommendations expected next month from the review team appointed by the Prime Minister.

The round-table brought together many experts by experience, professionals, patient advocates, faith and community representatives and academics with expertise in relation to African and Caribbean community.

The roundtable was co-chaired by Steve Gilbert, vice-chair of the independent review, and Jacqui Dyer, co-chair of the review’s African and Caribbean working group and Chair of Black Thrive [who this writer also represents].

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, chair of the independent review and Nero Ughwujabo, Special Adviser for Social Justice, Young People and Opportunities for the Prime Minister’s Office also attended.

The independent review of the Mental Health Act seeks to explore why people from black African and Caribbean communities are more highly represented among those subject to the Mental Health Act, and what might be done to address any discrepancies and reduce inequalities.

The round-table meeting covered the following strategic issues:

• Informing the independent review, including the work of the review’s African and Caribbean working group.
• Influencing emerging policies to ensure that people of African and Caribbean descent with mental.
• Health challenges - receiving the treatment and support people need, when they need it; are treated with dignity and that their liberty and autonomy are respected as far as possible.
• How can we set about improving access, experience and outcomes for black African and Caribbean individuals? What changes would you like to see as part of the independent review?

Topics discussed

• Substance misuse
• Secure care
• Approved mental health professionals
• Criminal justice system
• Race equality
• Unconscious bias
• Black Thrive, Lambeth
• NHS providers

Other issues raised included the government’s Race Disparity Audit, children and young people, impacts of cuts and decommissioning of the black voluntary sector, structural racism, alternatives to the medical model and community trauma.

Everyone recognised that we need to learn from previous government responses to race and mental health such as the DRE programme and lack of funding for the black-led voluntary sector as an alternative to statutory services.

It was also felt there was a window of opportunity with the review of the Mental Health Act to put race back on the agenda.

The timescale for the review is challenging but it is important that service users, carers, professionals and wider stakeholders should respond and give their feedback.

I hope the review of Act will provoke a wider debate on structural racism and a call to action to develop new solutions and perspectives to tackle over 30 years of over representation and poor health outcomes for the African and Caribbean, otherwise we may need to call The Black Panther and other super-heroes to resolve this problem.

  • How does this story make you feel? Join our Twitter chat this Wednesday 21 February at 12pm using #MHTchat to share your views on how cultural awareness can be improved in mental health care.
  • Contact the Mental Act Review team here
  • Complete this survey to sign up for Black Thrive’s 2018 Project Teams and Working Groups

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