Institutional discrimination in mental health services – the impact on Black disabled workers

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2019 National Black Members' Conference
13 September 2018

Conference notes that Black people in the UK are disproportionately more likely to be detained against their will as a result of mental ill health. The United Nations Committee for the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) 2017 report expressed concerns about the high number of Black disabled people compulsorily detained and treated against their will. Evidence was presented to the committee of disturbing levels of state violence against Black people who are detained in psychiatric settings and are subject to the use of Tasers in healthcare settings.

Conference further notes that, to work with children or vulnerable adults, many workers are subject to an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. This includes details of any non-conviction information held about them on local police records which the police consider relevant. This can include information relating to their mental health – for example, if they have ever been removed to “a place of safety” by the police under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (often referred to as “being sectioned”). Although, since 2012, the police are supposed to consider whether the information is relevant, for Black workers, their treatment at the hands of the mental health services may cause the police to deem this information more relevant than they might in the case of other workers.

Disabled Black workers with mental health problems who have come into contact with the police are therefore at risk of being excluded from job roles requiring an enhanced DBS check, including social workers, school staff, NHS workers, probations officers and many other roles our members undertake.

Conference therefore instructs the National Black Members Committee, working with the National Disabled Members Committee where appropriate, to:

1)Campaign for reform of mental health legislation and policies to end institutional discrimination against Black disabled people, as recommended by the UNCRPD report;

2)Circulate UNISON’s guidance on Bargaining for Mental Health Policies in the Workplace.