Interpreter-Mediated Mental Health Act Assessments (INForMHAA)

Alys Young In progress  


Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) play a vital role in safeguarding the rights of those assessed under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983. Over 95% of registered AMHPs are social workers. Their role ensures that options other than compulsory admission are investigated, the ‘voice’, and perspective of the person being assessed is taken into consideration, and their best interests are safeguarded. Creating the best communication possible is a priority during the MHA assessment. There is a legal requirement to ensure a person’s language needs are fully met if they do not use spoken English. This happens through spoken language and sign language interpreters. In some cases, an advocate is recommended from the same linguistic and cultural background of the person being assessed.

There has been growing attention to differences in outcomes of MHA assessments involving members of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. But this is not the same as paying attention to best practice in cases where a person’s language may differ from English and where an interpreter is required (e.g. assessments involving deaf signers, refugees and asylum seekers). In fact, no national data exist on the language characteristics of people assessed under the MHA or how often an interpreter is involved. There is no specific training for AMHPs and interpreters working together under the MHA. At their most serious, if best practices involving an interpreter are not followed, then detention could be challenged as unlawful.


This study is focuses mainly on the AMHP role within MHA assessments from a safeguarding adults’ perspective when co-working with interpreters (both spoken and signed).

It aims to explore and identify challenges and good practice in MHA assessment when AMHPS and interpreters work together, from their perspectives and those of service users and carers.


The study involves an online survey and online semi-structured interviews.

Live simulated practice will be set-up of AMHP assessments using interpreters delivered online with an audience of service users and carers, AMHPs and interpreters observing. Data will be collected through debriefing participants and observers in order to understand barriers and enablers of effective interpreter MHA assessment practice.

Analysis of the data will form the foundation of two co-produced outputs alongside the study’s service user and carer engagement group and professional advisory group: a joint training model that can be delivered as online CPD; best practice standards, guidance and support for their achievement in MHA assessments involving spoken/signed language interpreters, AMHPs and service users.