A Reflection on the Past Year by Karen Martin

January 2021 was my first-year anniversary of being part of the Executive Team for Scottish Mental Health Law Review, and what a year it has been. When I joined the Team in January it felt like a huge undertaking and I will admit to having some doubts as to how we would get through it all. That, of course was my thinking pre COVID-19.
Reflecting back now I am pleasantly surprised just how much has been achieved by the review team and secretariat given the backdrop of the pandemic and restrictions.

Now in 2021 and at the start of Phase 3 of the review, I think it is a good time to remind everyone of the scope of the review. Our Terms of Reference gives a good, clear outline of what we are tasked with and these can be found on our website.

I have always been clear in any consultation with unpaid carers carried out as part of this review, that we are not going to be drafting new legislation but making recommendations on where rights and protections could be improved. In doing this I have tried to manage the expectations of unpaid carers of all ages and this has provided opportunities for wider discussions around existing safeguards, how carers see them and where improvements could be made.

The review work has carried on despite the national restrictions albeit in very different ways from what was originally planned. Personally, I think it has enabled us to speak to a great many people throughout Scotland that we may not have heard from due to issues of trying to cover the whole of Scottish mainland and Islands, not always an easy task, but made easier this year by use of technology. We are also acutely aware of those digitally excluded. In reaching out to this group we have received assistance from organisations and community groups, and we thank them for this.

I admit that in summer of last year I assumed we would be back at face-to-face meetings etc by 2021, sadly that is not the case. However, with the great advance in the vaccination programme there is a real hope of the country coming to some sort of normality by late 2021. Whether that means we can meet up again no one knows yet. The review however will continue, and we will remain in touch with people through our two new reference groups being set up and through a continuous rolling programme of engagement.

Further updates and information about the Review can be obtained from the Secretariat on secretariat@SMHLR.scot

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