But the rates of sectioning for the African Caribbean community are 44 per cent higher than white British people despite similar rates of mental health. Another crucial point of contestation is the demand by mental health campaigners for the right to independent advocacy by a culturally competent practitioner. Commenting on the debate, Matilda MacAttram, Director of Black Mental BMHUK told Black Britain: “The debate was welcomed, but from the viewpoint of BMHUK, we do not believe that the peers in the House of Lords were privy to all the information they needed in order to make a decision.”
She said that crucial information from the CRE was missing – that the Race Equality Impact Assessment for the Mental Health Bill is flawed and falls short of legal requirements. “If peers and MPs had been given access to this information from the outset, their decision would be very clear. “There is widespread acknowledgement that mental health services are institutionally racist,” Mac Attram said.
The BMHUK Director said that it is important to assert the extent of racism within the mental health system, because “there is another agenda to present ignorance about the reasons there are such high numbers of African Caribbean people within the system.” She added that it must not be forgotten that Sir John Bloefeld, a retired High Court judge concluded after the Rocky Bennett enquiry that the mental health system in the UK is “institutionally racist.”
“We cannot afford to keep quiet about this, especially when, as Lord Patel argued, there are mischievous elements at work trying to undermine this argument.” Lord Patel called for a legal challenge to the Mental Health Bill because it will discriminate, a fact argued by the CRE. “We have 30 years of work to show that mental health services are discriminatory and this Bill will make things a lot worse,” Mac Attram said.