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Jeffrey Davies is a Lay Member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales. He is also a senior social worker/forensic social worker in the Blaenau Gwent Community Mental Health Team and a former psychiatric nurse.
Judicial appointment. What happened next?
Jeffrey updates us on his role as a lay member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales.
“In this role I’ve found that every situation is different and new issues crop up regularly. Even when you prepare thoroughly by reading the reports and papers, issues arise that you haven't anticipated. You have to be able to deal with this and know how to respond.
“The law is changing rapidly at the present time so it is important to keep up with the changes. This is particularly so with the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act and the overlap between them. There is a training programme for tribunal members that’s been helpful.
“In my day job as forensic social worker I spend a lot of time writing reports for and giving evidence to mental health review tribunals. As a tribunal member I have had to change my perspective from social worker to tribunal member. Sometimes it can be tricky as some of the professionals presenting cases are people I have trained in the past!
“Many colleagues are interested in what I’m doing now and how I got here. I often refer them to the JAC website and particularly encourage them to sign up for the newsletter to be aware of when suitable vacancies arise (especially for lay members). I have had many positive comments on the case study from senior managers. Becoming a lay member of the tribunal has not only been a personal achievement for me but also recognises the work of Blaenau Gwent Social Services where I worked as a forensic social worker.”
Jeffrey Davies case study.
"One of the main roles of the Mental Health Review Tribunal is to balance the liberty and rights of the patient against the risks they may pose to themselves and others. Lay members need to be comfortable doing this. I thought, through my long career of 25 years in mental health, that I had gained the right experience and skills to be able to do this competently and therefore applied for the role.
"As a forensic social worker I deal with people who have often committed serious offences and have been detained under the Mental Health Act. I supervise service users in the community, often in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, and regularly undertake risk assessments. I have attended Mental Health Review Tribunals on numerous occasions in a professional capacity, giving evidence both verbally and in writing.
"As a lay member I have to be able to approach a case from a different point of view to that of a professional giving evidence. When sitting on the tribunal you need to be fair and equitable in your approach and have no preconceived ideas. For me this change of perspective can be a challenging aspect of my new role.
"There is a rich variety of work. No two tribunal sittings are the same; there are always differences in the individual circumstances of the patients and the arguments made by their legal representatives. I also enjoy working with people from different professional backgrounds and viewpoints. The roles of the members of the tribunal are complementary and we all take equal responsibility in the decision making. The lay member usually takes the lead in questioning the non-medical witnesses and examining the evidence from a social perspective. It is a very interesting, enjoyable and often challenging role.
"The JAC selection process was thorough but fair and equitable. Initially it involved completing a detailed application outlining my experience in mental health and examples of how I met the qualities required for the role. The shortlisting process consisted of a challenging online test, made up of a number of questions on a series of scenarios relating to the work of the tribunal. There was a time limit and you needed to be disciplined and well prepared to finish it within the time allocation. However, there was nothing unexpected in the test. All questions related to the role of the lay member, the relevant legislation and the associated codes of practice. I found that there was also a great deal of pertinent information on the JAC website which I would recommend reading as preparation prior to sitting the test.
"Following shortlisting, I was invited to an interview in London. The panel consisted of two people, one of whom was a tribunal judge. The interview involved a scenario regarding a tribunal and questions covered the qualities and abilities that would be required of a candidate, who was suitable for judicial office. Again, the resources available on the JAC website were helpful in preparing for the interview.
"After being appointed, I was required to attend three days of training and observe three tribunals, which was very helpful and allowed me to meet the other new appointees."