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Charities welcome new mental health disclosure rules

Guidelines will list factors to consider before disclosing psychiatric history in employer background checks

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

New guidelines will list factors that must be considered before people's mental health crises are disclosed to employers in background checks. Police will now have to examine issues such as how long ago a detention under the Mental Health Act occurred, when assessing whether it is disclosed.

The advice covers Disclosure and Barring Service (formerly CRB) checks.

The Home Office said the new guidance, which will be issued on Monday, states that: "Detention under the Mental Health Act, which does not constitute a criminal investigation, is unlikely in itself to be sufficient to justify disclosure."

It goes on to say that the behaviour of the person during the incident must be a "key consideration" when considering checks. This could include assessing whether the person presented a risk of harm to others or whether they were involved in multiple incidents.

The date of the mental ill health episode is an "important" factor. In cases where it took place a long time ago, officers should consider giving the applicant an opportunity to make representations about their current state of health.

If information is disclosed, the certificate should provide an explanation so the employer or voluntary organisation understands the relevance of the information to the application.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, welcomed the move. He said that the nature of the current process means that people who are perfectly able to do a job may be unnecessarily excluded because of a lack of clarity about what should and shouldn’t be disclosed.

"There is no reason why having a mental health problem or having been previously detained under the Mental Health Act should necessarily be a red flag when it comes to DBS checks. This guidance is an important next step in providing greater clarity, but there is still room to go further," he said.

“For example, people should automatically be allowed to make representations about the current state of their mental health if concerns are raised. At the moment it is left to the discretion of the chief police officer to give someone that opportunity. In a society where stigma about mental ill health is still rife, we need all the checks and balances possible to negate any fears and preconceived ideas about the one in four of us who experience mental health problems every year.”

Community and social care minister Alistair Burt said the changes will help prevent people being "stigmatised" as they attempt to find work or volunteering opportunities.

He said: "Having a mental illness is not a crime - your medical history wouldn't be flagged to your employer, so it's right that we make the same true for someone who's had a mental health crisis."

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