The hour long meeting which took place at the Home Secretary’s office at Home Office headquarters in Marsham street on Thursday 1st May, was part on the ongoing discussion that BMH UK have been having with Home Office officials since the launch of their campaign against black deaths in custody in October last year.
This campaign is calling for more transparency and full accountability whenever a preventable fatality occurs of people in the care of mental health services and the outlawing of the use of control and restraint of this vulnerable group.
The recent spate of deaths of people from the community when in crisis has led to a number responses including and new training schemes being run for police by mental health providers.
BMH UK voiced their reservations at this meeting over this training, and warned the Home Secretary that it will not prevent further deaths. Concerns were also raised Theresa May over the health providers who have been commissioned to roll out the this new training by the Department of Health are in fact the same agency responsible for running services where the most disturbing deaths of black men have occurred in recent years.
The culture that has developed in this sector of mental health trusts calling riot police onto mental health wards to restrain patients and the disturbing practice of police tasering patients in hospital was also discussed.
The Home Secretary shared with BMH UK’s delegation on the her decision to order an inquiry, which will be conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate Constabulary (HMIC) into the treatment of vulnerable people in police custody and her intention that this will be part of the work to begin to improve practice, regain community confidence and address the preventable further fatalities from happening.
Matilda MacAttram a member of Black Mental Health UK’s delegation at the Home Office meeting said : ‘It is encouraging to see the Home Secretary take on board the concerns that we raised during our discussions and also give reassurance that she is taking these issues seriously. Theresa May’s ordering of an HMIC inquiry into the police on this issue we hope will start the process of bringing about this change.
We are aware that this is the just the beginning and that there is still a lot of work to be done before we see full accountability for the ill treatment and preventable deaths of people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities who come in contact with the police or mental health services, but this meeting was a good start.’
Bishop Lewellyn Grayham a member Black Mental Health UK’s delegation at the Home Office meeting said : ‘The outcome we are looking for is that the issue of black deaths in custody is taken seriously and the Home Secretary indicated that she is aware of this issue and will make changes going forward.
This is a positive step, and we also welcome the Home Office facilitating brokerage between HMIC and organisations like Black Mental Health UK going forward so that we can contribute and influence to outcome of the planned HMIC inquiry to ensure that there is lasting change and justice is seen to be done, we don’t want any more deaths in custody.’
Alicia Spence member Black Mental Health UK’s delegation at the Home Office meeting said : ‘The discussions in our meeting were positive, we didn’t a give an emotional response as we had not lost individual family members but it was a reality check for the minister and her officials to get insight into the first hand experience of those from our community who are working in this sector. I welcomed the Home Secretary’s response to the issues that we raised, because when you have the captain of the ship that is saying that I don’t want this kind of thing happening on my watch it will make a difference operationally. When those on the front line know that there has to be accountability about their actions then they will think more about how they treat people because of the consequences.’
Members of BMH K’s delegation with the Home Secretary on the issue of Black Deaths in Custody were: Matilda MacAttram, Bishop Lewellyn Grayham, Darren Peters, Alicia Spence and Janet Clarke-Lewis.