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Working through the pandemic – Mental Welfare Commission annual report for 2020-21

Publication date: 14 Dec, 2021

The Mental Welfare Commission today published its annual report for 2020-21, showing how it adapted its work during the first year of the pandemic.

The Commission’s roles centre on safeguarding the rights and welfare of some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people including those with mental ill health, learning disability and dementia.

Activities in the year include:

  • The way in which the Commission responded to the many calls and approaches it received for advice as pandemic restrictions were introduced. Those queries were distilled into Covid Advice notes and published regularly throughout the year, with information tailored for health and care professionals, and for people with lived experience and their relatives or carers.
  • A report on women with mental ill health in Cornton Vale prison, which confirmed the serious issues raised earlier by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. The Mental Welfare Commission’s report took this further, making its own recommendations for change that it believes will help these extremely vulnerable women. The Commission’s report also raised wider questions about missed opportunities in early intervention, pathways from prison to the community and the revolving door of prison.
  • A report focussing on the legality of moves of people from hospital to care homes during the pandemic, called Authority to Discharge. Its findings were more wide-ranging, and drew huge engagement from health and care staff from across the country after publication, with hopes that it has a long term positive impact for individuals, families and staff. 
  • Increased activity in monitoring the use of the Mental Health Act during the pandemic; publishing and sharing findings on levels of detention (compulsory treatment for mental ill health when very unwell). The Commission found a higher-than-average rise in the number of detentions in the year, and raised concerns over how the Act is used when people are detained.

Julie Paterson, chief executive, Mental Welfare Commission, said:

“This was an incredibly challenging time for those at the centre of our work – people who are living with mental ill health, learning disability, dementia and other conditions, and for their relatives and carers. 

“Coping through the pandemic, when services often had to change drastically, added to the ongoing difficulty for many.  

“Like other organisations, we had to change our ways of working, adapt to the new circumstances and rapidly respond to changing needs.

“Our engagement team - who themselves have lived experience of mental ill health or as family members - met over 280 people individually or in groups online or by phone, keeping that vital link when face to face meeting were cancelled.”