Migrants Mental Capacity Advocacy Project
Adults with severe mental health issues receive little support navigating the immigration and social welfare system, though they may lack the mental capacity to do so. As a result, many are unable to regularise their status and face the full brunt of the hostile environment.
In October 2017, we started the Migrants Mental Capacity Advocacy (MMCA) Project to fill this gap. The MMCA Project is the first and only project of its kind in the UK. We provide tailored and holistic direct support for complex mental health while at the same time push for systemic changes through organising, capacity building, policy and strategic litigation. Read more in our report, Without Capacity: Mental Capacity as a Barrier to Justice in the Immigration System here.
Rachel was trafficked to the UK in 2002 to do housework without pay. Rachel suffers from delusions and strongly believes that she is a British citizen. She is easily confused, and often anxious and depressed. Around 2012, Rachel had a mental health breakdown and was hospitalised. Rachel’s employers then kicked her out, leaving her homeless.
Rachel went to several charities for help, insisting she had British citizenship, but they could not help her obtain a bank account, national insurance number or benefits. Social services could not assist as, delusions aside, Rachel is able to care for herself. Since Rachel was unable to engage with her immigration status, no application could be made to the Home Office to regularise her status in the UK.
Through MMCA, we worked with Rachel to build trust. We assisted her in obtaining NASS support and destitution grant payments. We also invited her to Migrants Organise activities, helping Rachel feel supported. As Rachel trusted us, we were able to persuade her to engage with an immigration solicitor. We made an application to the Court of Protection to authorise us to make decisions on Rachel’s behalf: we worked to involve Rachel in decisions, but when this was not possible, the authorisation allowed her case to progress. Rachel now has a pending application with the Home Office.
James is a dependent of an EEA national who has lived in the UK for 5 years. In 2015, he made an application for permanent residency, which was refused. The matter went to appeal in the immigration tribunal.
Following an accident, James’ physical and mental health deteriorated, and eventually he was assessed as lacking the capacity to provide instructions and to litigate. His solicitor and counsel therefore asked for an adjournment and tried vigorously to find a suitable litigation friend for him, but to no avail. As a result, the hearing was adjourned three times, and the case was at a standstill. In the meantime, James’s housing benefit claim and other benefits were stopped. He accrued more than £10,000 of rent arrears and was served with an eviction notice.
Through MMCA, we found James a litigation friend, herself an experienced immigration lawyer, who could litigate on his behalf. With his immigration case progressing, we could then refer James to social services. He is now well supported under the Care Act. Social services agreed to pay off James’ debt, his rent and also provide subsistence payment while his case is ongoing.
How we work
We work with both appeal cases (i.e. where a litigation friend might be needed) and pre-appeal cases (i.e. where an application needs to be made and there is no litigation).
Our aim is threefold:
Gather an evidence-base on issues faced by adults who lack mental capacity
both in the immigration and social care system (i.e. accessing welfare benefits,
community care support, healthcare, etc.)
Provide short-term, practical solutions to these issues for adults who lack mental capacity currently in the system.
Push for changes to be made to provide long term solution to the issues identified through organising, capacity building, policy and strategic litigation.
Each case is discussed by a panel of expert professionals, before we create a bespoke support plan. Our panel includes:
Mental Health Solicitor at Bindmans LLP
Community Programme Director at Migrants Organise and Qualified Social Worker
Court of Protection and Community Care Solicitor at Bindmans LLP
Public Law Barrister at the Garden Court Chambers and Lead Lawyer at the Public Law Project
Immigration and Human Rights Barrister at No5 Chambers and Modern Slavery Lead at Migrants Organise
Immigration and Welfare Adviser
Court of Protection Barrister at Field Court Chambers and Legal Project Manager at the AIRE Centre
Mental Health Solicitor at Bindmans LLP
Dr Johanna Herrod
NHS Consultant Neuro-psychiatrist
Dr Jill O’Leary
GP and Head of Medical Advisory Service at the Helen Bamber Foundation
Solicitor at Southwark Law Centre
We have also created a network of Litigation Friends, whom we can potentially match to act as an independent advocate or litigation friend of last resort. Please note that we are not a matching service and cannot guarantee any match with a litigation friend, even if we accept a referral.
If you have issues with cases involving mental health or mental capacity, we can offer second-tier advice for professionals. We may also be able to offer tailored training to your organisation. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also take a small number of cases into the project.
All referrals need to come through the Migrants Organise community programme. Please read this MMCA referral guide which provides more details of the support we can offer.