Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Questions (455, 456)

Carol Nolan


455. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delays in respect of the drafting of legislation to update the Mental Health Act 2001. [26531/19]

View answer

Carol Nolan


456. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health when draft legislation to update the Mental Health Act 2001 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26532/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 455 and 456 together.

The Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act 2001, which was published in 2015, made 165 recommendations, approximately 70% of which relate to amendments to the 2001 Act. The Deputy will be aware that Government approved plans to proceed with the general scheme of a bill and officials are working on the heads of this comprehensive amending bill which will legislate for the recommendations of the Review.

Draft heads of Bill are currently being finalised and will be submitted to the Mental Health Commission within the next two weeks for their detailed review. It is essential that the Mental Health Commission, which has a very significant and important role in overseeing the safeguards provided in the Act, has full input into the framing of the many amendments to be included in revised mental health legislation.

The Deputy may also wish to note that since the Expert Group Review was published three mental health amendment acts have been enacted.

The first was the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2015 which updated the provisions of the 2001 Act regarding treatment, in particular ECT.

The second was the more recent enactment of the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2018 which makes changes to the 2001 Act regarding the definition of voluntary patient and which introduces guiding principles for adults replacing the principle of best interests. The Act also introduces guiding principles for children and refers to capacity within the meaning of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. It is important to point out, however, that the provisions of the 2018 amending act cannot be commenced until further legislative changes are made and the Decision Support Service, established under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act is operational. The changes in these two acts are based on a number of different recommendations of the Expert Group Review.

The third amending act is the Mental Health (Renewal Orders) Act 2018, which amended Section 15 of the 2001 Act following on from a Court of Appeal finding of unconstitutionality.

In addition, changes to, or that have an effect on, the 2001 Act will be introduced as part of the new Deprivation of Liberty provisions currently being developed by my Department and also through changes proposed for the Child Care Act 1991. Finally, there are four Private Member's Bills published which seek to make changes to or that have an effect on the 2001 Act. As these bills are moved in the Oireachtas, my Department is required to prioritise these over other legislative work such as the review of the Act.

Many of the changes proposed in the various private members bills replicate recommendations of the Expert Group Review.