New Mental Health Bill gains Lords support

New Mental Health Bill gains Lords' support

By Rachel O'Rourke

The Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill, aiming to help those suffering with mental illness access employment, completed its 2nd reading in the House of Lords today (25th November 2011). 

The hearing

Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, a director of the Economist, told the Lords that the new Bill - which aims to revoke four pieces of current legislation found to discriminate against those with mental health issues - would mitigate the problems faced by many. 

According to the BBC, discrimination faced by people with mental illness was described by peers as; "a deep stigma of medieval proportions." 

Talking about current legislation at the Bill's second reading-debate in the upper chamber today, Stevenson said: "There remain a series of disgustingly blatant discriminations against those suffering from mental health." 

Current legislation fallbacks

Examples of current legislation injustices offered to peers at today’s hearing included the fact that MPs and school governors can be forced out of their jobs if it is revealed they have mental health problems. Also, that prospective jurors are asked to confirm that they have not suffered from mental illness, at the interview stage. If it is discovered that they have, they are disqualified. 

The government met the Bill with great support, and told reporters that it wants to ensure that fewer people experience discrimination on mental health grounds, and acknowledged that the Bill would implement credible strategies. 

Other expert views

360 Diversity, a company, which helps to ensure diversity and equality in the work place, said that it fully supported the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill. 

It said: "It is argued that the exclusions which feature in the current legislation would never have been tolerated if they were directed at those with physical health problems. [We] are hopeful of a revision of this legislation in order to bring it in line with the Equality Act 2010."

Stuart Bray, business development manager of the company said: “Mental health is often brushed under the carpet, not just by politicians, but everyday people living everyday lives. What people often fail to realise is that many people each year are affected by mental health issues to some degree.”

The 1st reading of the Bill took place on 6 April 2011 and signalled the start of the Bill's journey through the Lords. The second reading is a more general debate on all aspects of the Bill. It will now go forward to the Committee Stage - a date for which is still to be confirmed - where a line-by-line, detailed examination of the literature will take place. 

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