New online publications make legal support accessible to all as Mind’s legal helpline sees influx in calls, UK
Leading mental health charity Mind has launched a range of new online legal publications. Developed in consultation with legal experts and people with lived experience of mental health problems, they aim to explain in a simple and practical way what a person’s legal rights are, and what they can do to assert them. The publications should enable everyone to better understand complex subjects such as the Mental Capacity Act and employment discrimination. This comes on the back of new data which show that Mind’s legal helpline has experienced a surge in enquiries. From May 2012 to May 2013 advisers received 675 calls, which shot up to 1029 between May 2013 and May 2014.
Ali Fiddy, Head of Legal at Mind said:
“We know it’s increasingly difficult for people to access legal aid, and as a result Mind’s legal helpline has seen a huge rise in calls. It’s difficult to live with a mental health problem at the best of times, but when something bad happens to you on top of that, it can make you feel even more unwell. That’s why we’re launching new online publications to help people to understand their legal rights and how to assert them.”
Charlotte*, 23 from Powys lost her job earlier this month. She had worked at the same organisation for the last 4 years and believes she was unfairly dismissed because of her mental health problem.
“I enjoyed my job and I was a good employee, but my mental health problem meant that I was frequently hospitalised. I told my organisation about my health condition when I started and I was assured that they would make adjustments, but hardly any were made. The strict sickness absence policies meant that every time I had time off work – even just a day – I had to go to an attendance review. These reviews themselves were very intimidating and often made me feel even more unwell. Their attitude meant that I often came back to work before I was actually better as I was worried about getting in trouble.
“It got to the point where I was going through a disciplinary simply for having time off sick. I was given an ultimatum and my union representative advised me to resign or I’d be sacked. I couldn’t face the humiliation of being escorted off the premises, so I resigned. Now I’m waiting to see if I’m eligible for Employment and Support Allowance while I look for another job. It’s unbelievable that they can treat a hardworking member of staff who just happens to have a long term health condition in that way.”
Although shocking, Charlotte’s story isn’t uncommon. Mind provides legal advice to people who’ve been through similar situations through its legal helpline and the resources on our website. The new publications include:
- Disability discrimination
- Discrimination at work
- Nearest relative
- Human Rights Act
- Mental Capacity Act
- My right to work with children and vulnerable adults
- My personal information
- Fitness to drive
*Name has been changed to protect identity