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Press Release_ Social Workers in Mental Health Express Concern Over Breaches of Human Rights for Users of Mental Health Services

What is the issue? On July 24th the Mental Health Commission released their report, 2018 Inspection of 24-hour supervised residences for people with mental illness*. The report highlighted the on-going serious breaches of human rights for people with mental health issues who live in these community residences.

***For Immediate Release*** 

Social Workers in Mental Health Express Concern Over Breaches of Human Rights for Users of Mental Health Services

What is IASW?

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW), is the professional body representing social workers in the Republic of Ireland. There are over 4,000 registered social workers in Ireland. This includes staff working in the Health & Social Care sector, in education and training, in the voluntary sector and a number of independent practitioners.

What is the issue?

On July 24th the Mental Health Commission released their report, 2018 Inspection of 24-hour supervised residences for people with mental illness*. The report highlighted the on-going serious breaches of human rights for people with mental health issues who live in these community residences. 

Why does it exist

Continued lack of action from the government in respect of enshrining human rights approaches into legislation, for example, the extended delay in ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons’ with Disabilities and related covenants, the extended delay in updating the Mental Health Act 2001 and the lack of a legislative basis for safeguarding adults at risk of abuse, all mean the rights of persons with disabilities in Ireland continue to be de-prioritised. This results in situations whereby persons, in this instance, those with mental health disabilities, are living in conditions that breach their human rights.

Key Issue – People with mental health disabilities deserve to live with dignity and respect

As a profession, social work has the principles of human rights and social justice in our core ethics and training. We are hugely concerned at the lack of progress that is being made within mental health services in respect of affording service users basic human rights to which they should have access; the right to privacy, the right to a clean well maintained accommodation, the right to choose where to live, the right to independent living with appropriate supports and the right to access appropriate care. Due to the severe shortage of social workers nationally on rehabilitation and recovery mental health teams, many service users do not have access to a social worker. This means that many service users across the country have no access to a qualified professional whose expertise is in psychosocial and human rights approaches.  Social workers in mental health call for an immediate investment in addressing the shortage of social workers on rehab and recovery teams nationally to ensure service users have access to support in addressing any rights-based deficiencies in their recovery journey. 

Key Issue – People with mental health disabilities have a right to housing on their own terms

Social workers in mental health firmly believe that service users within community residences in mental health services have a human right to choose where they live and who they live with and should be appropriately supported in achieving those choices. Recommendations 4.1 and 4.7 of A Vision for Change (2006) advised that people with mental health disabilities should be treated equally to all citizens in having access to housing and that housing is the responsibility of the local authority. 

The National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability 2011-2016 built on these recommendations and advised that a clear transition plan should be developed whereby the ownership of low and medium support community residences be transferred to the ownership of local authorities, and the supports required to facilitate persons living a self directed life in their new home are provided by the Health Service Provider. This recommendation has not materialised. Social workers in mental health call for the immediate, mandated implementation of a nationwide transition project which transfers ownership of community residences to local authorities, and the ring fencing of mental health funding savings from the transition into resourcing  social care supports for mental health service users transitioning to community living . This will bring with it the real potential for service users in mental health services to a higher quality of life and a realisation of their human rights in this regard.

For more information contact Kerry Cuskelly. T: 0035316774838 E: officemanager@iasw.ie

* https://www.mhcirl.ie/File/2018ResidencesReport.pdf

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