Nina, a young woman with mental health issues, had been living in an adolescent unit close to her family home where her mum, grandmother and two younger brothers lived. When Nina turned 18 she was moved to an age appropriate facility, but the only bed available was 200 miles away from home. Now that she lives so far away from home, Nina’s mum and grandmother have to take it in turns visiting her, using public transport. It takes them a whole day to make the trip and is very expensive. Nina stays in the new facility for over a year. Her two younger brothers are too young to make the journey so Nina doesn’t see them at all during this time. Nina’s mum has mental health issues too and has to arrange childcare for the young brothers whenever she visits her daughter. 

Nina is very distressed by losing contact with her younger brothers as they had previously had a very strong relationship and she misses them. Nina begins self-harming, and as the hospital has a rule stating there will be no family visits within 48 hours of self-harm, this leads to even less family access and her mum and grandmother’s visits being cancelled at the last minute.

Nina has an Independent Mental Health Advocate, Donald, supporting her. Donald had been trained by the British Institute of Human Rights and recognised that this was a human rights issue. With the consent of Nina, Donald arranges a meeting with the social worker. Donald explains that this is interfering with Nina’s right to respect for family life, protected by Article 8 in the Human Rights Act. The social worker had being trying to get this resolved for months, so was pleased to hear that she might be able to use Nina’s right to family life to get things moving.

The social worker and Donald work together to write to Commissioners to challenge Nina’s placement. They explain in the letter that the CCG has a duty to respect Nina’s right to family life, and what impact this was having on Nina and her family which had, by this time, being going on for 18 months.  The letter points out that the CCG weren’t doing all they could to protect this right.

Within a few days the CCG had sent a different doctor to assess Nina. Within two weeks of the assessment Nina was transferred to a unit closer to home. As it was within 40 miles of her family, it was close enough for her brothers to visit and Nina will be able to have home visits. As a result Nina is much happier.

Example from BIHR’s project Care and Support: A Human Rights Approach to Advocacy

This example is also shared in BIHR's booklet Mental Health, Mental Capacity: My human rights