#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek - Reflecting on ADASS Mental Health Network's Work


Mental Health Awareness week is a good time to reflect on the work of the ADASS Mental Health and Substance misuse national policy network.  The aim of the group is to support ADASS to develop policy positions on key areas of mental health policy. The Network has fantastic representation from all of the organisations and people that we need to make that happen.  This includes the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC); Local Government Association (LGA); Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) and Principal Social Worker (PSW) leads. There are representatives from the regional networks, although we are always keen to get more engagement from regional mental health groups.  

Despite the current log jams in some areas of national policy, work is continuing apace around the review of the Mental Health Act, Mental Capacity Act, and workforce development in mental health.  These needs constant and active engagement from the Network.

The Network is overseen by three Co-leads.  As a survivor of mental illness arising from PTSD, I am keen to give something back, both to people who need our support, and all of the people and organisations who provide this.  This was my primary reason for stepping forward as one of the Co-leads for the Network. I joined Stephen Chandler, Director of Adult Social Services for Somerset, as Co-lead in 2016.  Our newest Co-lead, Melanie Brooks (Corporate Director for Adult Social Care for Nottinghamshire) has just been elected to the Network, and I really look forward to working with Melanie.  We’ve also had terrific engagement from ADASS Associates and the ADASS policy office. I’d like to especially mention Deborah Cohen, Hilary Paxton, Claire Barcham and Terry Rich.

The Network has and exenstive work programme, but I’d like to pick out three key areas of work that currently pre-occupy us:-

  • The replacement of the Mental Capacity framework with  the Liberty Protection Safeguards
  • The response to the Review of the Mental Health Act in 2018.
  • Workforce Development in Mental Health

Stephen Chandler gave a great presentation to ADASS Spring Conference on the introduction of the Liberty Protection Safeguards through the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act.  The link to the slides can be found here. Although the amendments to the current regime have  taken some time and deliberation, it should be noted that the new code of practice is expected by the end of 2019, and the time to start implementing the changes draws ever closer.  The Network will support ADASS to help Directors in the implementation of the Liberty Protection Safeguards.

The Review of the Mental Health Act was chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely and reported in December 2018 and a summary of the report is here.  ADASS were invited to be part of the group, albeit a bit later in the day.  We were provided with an opportunity to catch up on each of the domains being examined by the Review.  This included running two workshops with DASS’s from around the UK, with the help and support of Mark Trewin.  Mark divides his time between working for Bradford Council and for the DHSC, and provides an incredibly useful and energetic link between ADASS and the DHSC.  The DHSC is formulating a response to the Review, with the support of an Advisory Group, which has representation from ADASS and the AMPH Leads network, as well as significant service user leadership.  The aim is for a White Paper to be developed by the end of 2019 on the recommendations to be taken foward.. Taken together with the LPS changes, this actually starts to provide us with some tight timescales for this year, and a real need to ensure that we carefully focus the work of the Network and make the best use of the skills, time and experience of our Network members.  One of the things that most interests me about the MHA Review is the link with the Care Act 2014. I have long felt that the MHA and the Care Act should and could better complement each other, rather than being seen as an “either/or”. I will continue to represent this view to the Advisory Group, but will ask the Network for its views and support around this position in the meantime.

In terms of workforce development, the Social Work for Better Mental Health programme was heavily supported by the DHSC and ADASS.  Useful feedback on the programme and its impact was presented at the Spring Seminar and can be found here.  Within the Network, we recognised the need to support Directors of Adult Social Services in understanding their statutory role both in relation to delegated and non-delegated powers under S75 and other partnership arrangements, as well as supporting and developing social care staff who are working as part of integrated mental health teams.  This is particularly true of the AMHP role. We commissioned Claire Barcham to undertake some work for us in this area. Claire produced at “Top 10 tips” for DASS’s in relation to mental health responsibilities, as well as conducting a hugely comprehensive survey of AMHP activity across England. The Network will continue to build on all of these strands to support and develop ADASS’s approach to good mental health social work practice.

I hope this gives you a flavour of the work of the Network.  We really welcome involvement from new Members, particularly to ensure that we represent the regions properly.  Please do feel free to contact any of the three Co-leads if you would like to find out more.

Simon GalczynskiStephen ChandlerMelanie Brooks.