The Lunacy Act 1845 (8 & 9 Vict., c. 100) was a UK Act of Parliament that, along with the County Asylums Act 1845, was the basis of mental health law in England and Wales from 1845 to 1890. It changed the treatment of mentally ill people from that of prisoners to that of patients.
Shaftesbury was the head of the Commission from its founding in 1845 until his death in 1885. The Lunacy Commission was made up of eleven Metropolitan Commissioners. The Commission was monumental as it was not only a full-time commission, but it was also salaried for six of its members. The six members of the commission that were full-time and salaried were made of up three members of the legal system and three members of the medical community. The other five members of the commission were all honorary members that simply had to attend board meetings. The duty of the Commission was to establish and carry out the provisions of the Act.
The Commission had many roles in carrying out the act. The established a network of public county institutions. In doing so, they were able to monitor the conditions in the asylums and the treatment that was being given to the patients. They made a point to reach out to patients that were in workhouses and prisons, and get them in the proper institutions where they could be treated. They also focused on getting "single lunatics", lunatics who were not connected with any prisons or workhouse but needed to received psychiatric care. The ones that they could not remove from the prisons and the workhouses were still monitored, making sure the commission kept an eye on their treatment and their mental condition.
The importance of these two acts together is that they consolidated Lunacy Law in England. However, they did not and nor has any legislation ever combined the entirety of Lunacy Law together. Both of these acts were the basis for Lunacy Law in England until 1890 when both of them were repealed by the Lunacy Act of 1890.
Part of the inspections that took place and were conducted by the Lunacy Commission involved inspecting workhouses for patients that could be removed from the workhouses and placed in institutions. The Commission would often find mentally unhealthy children and push for them to be removed from the workhouses. However, many of the institutions were hesitant to take in the children seeing as they believed they served a threat in the way their institution was to be run. Because of this, many children were admitted, under the guise that they were in desperate need of help and served a serious danger to themselves and others.
The asylums of the day, while typically filled with poor lunatics or criminally insane persons, were meant to asylums in the true sense of the word. They were to be a place were those who were paupers or mentally could go and find solace and safety and get away from the harsh work conditions of the workhouses. Many of these children were only looking for just that, somewhere to go and find safety. Therefore, admitting them under such false pretenses, that they are a serious danger to themselves and others was causing them receive improper treatment.