Identity, risk and control: the perceptions of service users subject to section 37/41 of the Mental Health Act 1983 towards risk, risk assessment and social supervision
Whilst risk assessments have come to assume an increased level of importance in mental health policy and practice in England and Wales since the 1990s, there has been relatively little focus on the way in which service users themselves experience such practices. This thesis examines the views of offenders subject to Ministry of Justice restrictions under section 41 of the Mental Health Act 1983 towards their own offending, risk assessments and supervision. A primarily qualitative methodology is used to examine the views of 19 service users. Using theories of identity, the thesis examines the way that research participants explained and justified offending behaviour. It is argued that mentally disordered offenders used illness as a form of mitigation, utilised ‘techniques of neutralisation’ or employed a combination of these approaches. The thesis moves on to use governmentality theory as a means to analyse participants’ awareness and views toward risk assessment practices and their conditions of discharge. Although participants believed that assessments were seen as important by mental health professionals, they were often unaware of the content of such assessments. Research participants usually had little or no knowledge of their conditions of discharge. Service user perceptions of the supervision process are then examined with reference to theories of social control. It is argued that service users held a range of views towards the supervision order, seeing it variously as a means of identifying and supporting them as mentally ill individuals; as a means of establishing internal controls or as a negative means of labelling socially stigmatised behaviours. The thesis concludes through considering the ways in which social workers might consider the use of risk assessment practices through an ethical framework. It I argued that social workers should seeks to bridge Kantian and utilitarian perspectives through a consideration of service user autonomy.