Journal Article

Family Matters: Developments Concerning the Role of the Nearest Relative and Social Worker under Mental Health Law in England and Wales

Joan Rapaport and Jill Manthorpe

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 38, issue 6, pages 1115-1131
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online April 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm025
Family Matters: Developments Concerning the Role of the Nearest Relative and Social Worker under Mental Health Law in England and Wales

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The ‘nearest relative’ and social work roles in mental health services share common ground. Although the social worker is a trained professional and the nearest relative is identified from a fixed hierarchy of kin, both roles were awarded the authority to make a compulsory order for hospital admission of a person with serious mental disorder warranting detention in hospital. Both roles will alter if amendments to the 1983 Mental Health Act in England and Wales come into force. This article considers the changing roles of relatives, carers and practitioners in the context of policy shifts in mental health legislation and services in England and Wales. Drawing on the interlinked tenets of anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice, it presents an analysis of the interlocking powers of the nearest relative and the Approved Social Worker, and an overview of defunct and existing legal proposals. The article concludes that the lay and professional roles remain in flux but they are still interdependent in many instances. Note: The term ‘patient’ is used to describe a person who is detained or liable to be detained under the 1983 Mental Health Act. The term ‘service user’ is used to describe someone who uses mental health services. However, the authors acknowledge that both descriptors are problematic given the stigma associated with the term ‘patient’ and possible offence caused by defining people by the services they use. The terms are used to reflect the legal status implied and no prejudicial meanings or interpretations are intended.

Keywords: mental health; law; policy; nearest relative; carers; approved social worker

Journal Article.  7548 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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