Human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK’s( BMH UK) has launched its Top 30 list for 2015, which spotlights the leading individuals that have done essential work to improve the way African Diaspora living the UK are treated by these services in the past 12 months.
It is essential reading for anyone with an interest in human rights and social justice, that is working in the arena of mental health and policing.
This list is of particular significance to people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities, as black Britons continue to be disproportionately subject to detention under the Mental Health Act, particularly via police referrals, even though there isn’t a higher prevalence of mental illness amongst this group.
While retaining the focus on mental health, BMH UK’s work has broken new ground in 2015, with a parliamentary round table for the community on the injustice of the mass incarceration of black Britons. Also our pre-election House of Lords event highlighted the need for the Diaspora to prioritise addressing the injustices that are hitting black Britons hardest when engaging with politicians.
BMH UK’s intervention, at the United Nations ICERD (International Convention of Elimination of Racial Discrimination) 50 celebration, on the need for the formal recognition of anti-black/African-phobic racism faced by people of African Descent living in the UK, has pushed our work out more widely across the international human rights arena.
Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK) said:
‘Significant strides have been made in 2015 with BMH UK’s parliamentary events on the criminal justice system and its impact on black Briton as well as our general election work.’
‘The intervention that I made during the UN ICERD 50 celebrations will mean that the practice of conflating the injustices faced by people of African Descent living in the UK with other issues within the equalities agenda will have to be addressed.’
‘A lot more work still needs to be done to end the routine police presence on locked mental health wards and the Tasering vulnerable patients. Those listed in the years BMH UK’S Top 30 List have in no small way assisted us in this work over the past 12 months.’
BMH UK’s Top 30 for 2015
- Lord Herman Ouseley. This widely respected elder statesman continues to advocate for the most marginalised and vulnerable groups among Britons black communities in the heart of parliament. In 2015 he raised a series of questions in parliament on behalf of BMH UK on the absence of transparency or monitoring of the unethical practice of long-term seclusion and use of Taser against detained patients.
- Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary has taken on board BMH UK calls for the need for an alternative to police custody and mental health detention for those who are picked up by the police and detained under the Mental Health Act.
New proposals in the Policing and Criminal Justice Bill will change the law to allow for alternative community based places of safety to be established. The Home Secretary’s commitment needs to be matched by the Department of Heath (DH) and NHS England allocation of resources directly to third sector black led agencies to make this change a reality on the ground.
3.Charles Walker OBE MP former chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health. Has one of the strongest records in parliament when it comes to advocating on behalf of BMH UK’s stakeholders, tabling the first ever parliamentary debate on black deaths in custody in 2013. True to his word on not shying away from controversial or difficult issues, at the height of the 2015 general election campaign and just a few days before the nation went to the polls, Walker MP left his constituency at short notice to speak at BMH UK’s elections hustings for 2015.
- Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP former minister of state for mental health, now the Lib Dem spokesperson for health’s commitment and resolve to continue to fight for improvements in the treatment of those who use mental health services continues. This has been marked by an already successful campaign in parity of esteem between mental and physical health services. We look forward to continuing working with him in the future.
- Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, former chief whip, has been an unwavering ally to BMH UK working behind the scenes to support many aspects of our work. His campaign to promote mental health alongside Norman Lamb MP and other senior political figures has secured increased Government funding for this sector. We look forward to continuing to work with Andrew in 2016.
- Luciana Berges MP, shadow minister for mental health, the first politician to work in this newly created role, Berger was clear in her commitment to improving services in this sector when she spoke at BMH UK’s 2015 general elections hustings. BMH UK look forward to working more closely with Luciana, particularly on specifically addressing the injustices that continue to disproportionately impact on people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities that are forced to use mental health services.
Campaigns & Human Rights
- Matilda MacAttram, Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK), leading the only agency that has spotlighted the need to end the use of Taser,[(which is set to be replaced by a new CED (Conduced Electricity Device) ] against patients detained in psychiatric settings. Her work has kept the human rights abuses faced by black Britons on national and international agendas in 2015.
- Pastor Murillo independent expert, United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has proved to be a powerful advocate for people of African Descent at global level, his work has been key in establishing the both the international year of African Descent in 2011 and the decade in 2014. His support and advice to BMH UK in navigating this arena has proved invaluable.
- Professor Verene Shepherd former chair UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGPAD), independent expert member of CERD. The driving force behind the establishment of the Decade of People of African Descent, BMH UK welcome her move to CERD. BMH UK hope our work with her particularly around advocating for the Diaspora on the issue of mental health and social justice will continue.
- Fanny Grâce Azanya, Swiss Fellow,UN WGPAD.Part of a new generation of international human rights activists dedicated to addressing the historical and current injustices faced by people of African descent. This phenomenal networker is using her skills to address the discrimination faced by the Diaspora in Europe.
- Shulaika Sugirigori, Netherlands Fellow, UN WGPAD.. This rising star is already recognised as a human rights defender of the Diaspora. Her work at the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights is an inspiration to those in this field who are also fighting against injustice.
- Auguste Essama, Cran a l’onu et I’AU, galvanising civil society support around the need for the formal acknowledgement of African-phobic/anti-black racism across UN mechanisms responsible for tackling discrimination. His work has brought the voice of many voiceless people across the Diaspora to the heart of the human rights system.
- Diawara Bokar, Africaine Pour La Défense Des Droits De L’homme ( La RADDHO), working in this area for justice since the Durban Conference in 2001, this leading human rights defender continues to advocate for the Diaspora across all UN monitoring mechanisms.
- Elizabeth Pears news editor of The Voice,Britain’s leading black newspaper. The demands of managing a busy a news room have never stopped Elizabeth from finding time to ensure that BMH UK’s key messages that often will impact on the life chances of black Briton reach to the very heart of the community. With no other organisation working on the campaigns, policy and human rights work that BMH UK focus on, Elizabeth’s continuing support has ensured the issues that mainstream media often sideline get a national coverage through The Voice.
- Bro. Ldr. Mbandaka, Omowale Kwaw and Olatunji Heru – Voice of Africa Radio, these radio presenter’s consistent coverage of BMH UK’s human rights and campaigns work has ensured our message reaches right to heart of key sections of the community that will never engage with mainstream media.
- Paul Gallagher The Independent – broke the national story, which took three years to come to light, on the Met Policesending 48 officers including firearmsofficers, police with Tasers and dogs to a south London psychiatric ward to deal with distressed patients from the UK’s African Caribbean community. This coverage assisted in highlighting human rights concerns in this arena while confirming that policing has no place in mental health care.
Community mental health
- Alicia Spence, African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) has spent her career serving people from the community who have been detained under the Mental Health Act, who remain one of society’s most excluded and vulnerable groups. The values of humanity and respect which underpin this services set the standard by which all services in this sector would do well to follow.
- Estella Western, Family Health Isis, heads up London’s oldest and almost only surviving black led community based mental health services offering culturally appropriate support. They continue to keep their doors open and engage at a senior policy level on behalf of their clients, in the face of intense cut backs to service, while demands for their support across the community continues to increase.
- Vanette Wilson, Nyiabingi, offering a myriad of support services on a shoestring to the growing cohort of black Britons who have been subject to detention under the Mental Health Act. Vanette leads a small team who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide a support for many who have no other place to turn to for help in the face of swinging cuts to this service.
- Pastor Desmond Hall, Christians Together in Brent, a leader that walks the walk. He has given his time and resources to continually support the work of BMH UK by attending numerous meetings with senior officials. Pentacostal City Mission also served as the venue for BMH UKs general elections hustings in May 2015.
- Bishop Llewellyn Graham, the Church of God of Prophecy, committed in his service to the community. During 2015 he often takes time out of his demanding schedule as chief exec Nehemiah United Churches Housing Association and pastor of a large congregation to attend a meetings with both the minister responsible for mental health and the Home Secretary.
- Arch Deacon Kajumba Archdeacon Daniel Kajumba, Committee for Ethnic Minority Anglican Concerns, has used his high office in serving ‘the very least of these’ and has consistently supported the campaign work of BMH UK. His work has opened doors for BMH UK to the most senior members of the Church of England who would not otherwise be aware of the daily the injustices faced by black communities who use mental health services.
- Jenny Martin, chair and international officer at UNISON Staffordshire West Midlands Probation,a unionists with a sterling track record for advocating for the rights of the of people that BMH UK has been set up to serve. Her work has put the injustices faced by black people who come in contact with mental health services on the UNISON Black Members political agenda.
- Mali BouattiaNUS Black Students Campaign officera rising star in the activist movement. Her support for the work of BMH UK has ensured that the next generation of young adults interested in fighting against injustice are aware of BMH UK’s work.
- Peter Robinson, community activist, mental health expert and peer support worker. He has spent his professional career supporting many from the community who have found themselves in mental health services. His insight and understanding of the experience and treatment of those from the community both on and off the hospital wards has informed many BMH UK consultations events with statutory agencies throughout 2015.
- Rachel Barclay, The Two Way Street (TTWS) Black African and Caribbean Mental Health agency. Heads up the only black led community based support service for those who have been in the prison system or detained under the Mental Health Act in the West of England. This service manages to operate in the face of swinging cuts and increasing demands for its support.
- Baroness Jenny Jones deputy chair of the Police and Crime Committee at the Greater London Authority. She has used her office to raise a series of questions around the use of Taser against those detained in psychiatric settings to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) during 2015. This has ensured that these routine human rights abuses of one of the most voiceless groups in the capital has not been sidelined.
- 28. Jennette Arnold OBE ME GLA, member Police and Crime Committee. She has ensured that race has not been sidelined from the London policing agenda, and has spoken out against the injustices faced by people from the community who are subject to detention under the Mental Health Act.
- Chief Constable David Shaw, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). He led the review of Taser and other uses of Police force study ordered by the Home Office. Shaw’s acknowledgement of BMH UK’s concerns about the disproportionate use of force against black Britons, particularly those subject to detention under the Mental Health Act throughout this process is appreciated. We hope to see these concerns reflected in the final recommendations expected to come back from the Home Office on this report in 2016.
- Dame Anne Owers, chair, Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Many disturbing cases being handled by this watchdog has left much of the community wary of any institution that relates to the police. However, since her appointment three years ago Owers sensitivity towards the issue of mental health as it relates to the UK’s African Caribbean communities, and commitment to meaningfully engage with this group, has made significant inroads in the work that needs to be done in securing Briton’s black communities confidence in this agency.