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Compulsory Care Legislation Introduced

MEDIA RELEASE

Rt Hon Wyatt Creech
Minister of Health
5 October 1999

COMPULSORY CARE LEGISLATION INTRODUCED

The Government is changing the law so people with intellectual disabilities, who pose a serious risk to themselves or others in the community, can receive appropriate care and support and be placed in secure care if needed.

The placements would be made via court order.

"There's a gap in the current law and service provision which means the small group concerned does not get the proper response," Health Minister Wyatt Creech said. "Some have for example been placed in prison, restrictive detention as a "special patient" in mental health services or discharged into the community.

"Once the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care) Bill introduced today is passed it will give clearer guidance about how to deal with those concerned.

"Funding for the services needed to give full effect to this policy has been approved by Cabinet.

"It will enable the authorisation of assessment and compulsory care of a person with an intellectual disability, whose behaviour poses a serious danger to the health and/or safety of themselves or others, or a person with an intellectual disability, who has been charged with an imprisonable offence.

"The Bill will only affect a few people.

"It will mean that adequate services are provided to offenders with intellectual disability in the correct environment, rather than them being put in prison without treatment or assistance.

"People under compulsory care will have care packages designed to meet their specific needs. The rights of people with an intellectual disability who come under the Bill, will be safeguarded while providing compulsory placement.

"The compulsory care mechanism will only be used as a last resort, and only when alternative support or care arrangements are insufficient for adequate care to be provided.

"The Bill complements criminal justice legislation. It will allow the courts to make appropriate orders for people with disabilities coming through the criminal justice system."

The process for developing the bill has been complex, and has involved the commissioning of reports, stocktake of the affected population and government decisions on the policy framework.

The Bill was initiated both to clarify the legal powers for caregivers, and due to the discharge of people with intellectual disabilities from psychiatric hospitals following the exclusion of intellectual disability in the 1992 Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Amendment Act.

The Act meant there was no specific legislation covering the compulsory care of people with intellectual disabilities who commit serious offences, or cause significant concern to the people caring for them that they may harm themselves or others.

In late 1996 the Ministry estimated there were about 200 people who would be covered by the proposed legislation. Fifty of these were likely to have been charged with an imprisonable offence.

ENDS

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