The Mental Health Commission (“MHC”), the Irish regulator of mental health services, has recently published its strategy entitled ‘Mental Health Commission Strategy 2019-2022 Protecting People’s Rights’ (the “Strategy”).

Vision, Mission and Values

In its Strategy, the MHC has set out that its mission for 2019 – 2022 is to ‘regulate and engage to promote, support and uphold the rights, health and well-being of all people who access mental health and decision support services.’ In achieving this mission, the MHC has issued a stark warning to providers of mental health services in Ireland, by confirming that the MHC will intervene ‘using all powers necessary’ where standards are not acceptable and human rights are not being upheld.

Commenting on the Strategy, Mr John Saunders, Chairman of the MHC said the following:

“Individual’s human rights will be at the heart of our work and functions over the next four years. It will be the common thread through all our activities, policies, regulations, codes of practice and standards. We will work with Government to strengthen the regulatory infrastructure, which vindicates people’s rights, and we will ensure compliance with the law through proportionate risk-based regulation, monitoring and supports. The present Commission is adopting a low tolerance level of non-compliance.”

Key Strategic Objectives

The Strategy is the sixth strategic plan implemented by the MHC since its establishment in 2002. The Strategy has five key strategic objectives. Each objective sets out key actions through which the strategic objective will be achieved and delivered by 2022. The strategic objectives and a sample of some of the key actions which will be used to achieve the objectives, are set out below:

1.Objective One:

To promote and uphold human rights to meet the MHC’s responsibilities and remit under national and international legislation.

Example of key action:

To achieve this objective, the MHC will ensure compliance with national and international human rights principles through the administration of Mental Health Tribunals, assisted decision-making services and in our regulation of mental health services

2. Objective Two:

To implement the MHC’s legislative mandate and to pursue appropriate changes to the Mental Health Act 2001, the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (the “2015 Act”) and other relevant legislation.

Example of key action:

To achieve this objective, the MHC will establish an effective Decision Support Service office under the remit of the 2015 Act and also strengthen the infrastructure which protects and enhances human rights through the administration of Mental Health Tribunals.

3.Objective Three:

To promote awareness of and confidence in the role of the MHC.

Example of key action:

To achieve this objective, the MHC will take a strategic approach to becoming the leading authority in the quality and standards of mental health services and the delivery of decision support services, through evidence-based research and effective, consistent communications.

4.Objective Four:

To develop an organisation that is responsive to the external environment and societal changes.

Example of key action:

To achieve this objective, the MHC will engage with Government, stakeholders and service users to influence policy and legislative changes

5.Objective Five:

To develop an agile organisation with an open and inclusive culture.

Example of key action:

To achieve this objective, the MHC will develop a strong corporate spine with appropriate IT infrastructure to enable effective and efficient delivery of the MHC’s core functions

International Best Practice

In preparing the Strategy, the MHC conducted a desk based review of mental health regulators and supported decision-making frameworks in other jurisdictions such as; England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands and Canada.

In conducting the review, the MHC identified examples of best practice, emerging trends and lessons learned from other jurisdictions, which informed the development of the Strategy. The international review also looked at best practice in communications and effective engagement with service users, their support network, service providers and wider stakeholders.

To view the full publication of the MHC’s Strategy click here.