Host Organisation: North East Law Centre

April Hall

April is a Trainee Solicitor with the North East Law Centre and will work across the Family Law and Immigration & Asylum departments, supplemented with an external Mental Health Law and Court of Protection secondment.

April studied at Northumbria University, gaining a BA (Hons) in English Language, before completing the Graduate Diploma in Law and subsequently the Legal Practice Course, also at Northumbria.

Having a keen interest in mental health, April worked for Mental Health Matters as a professional advocacy worker. In this role, April provided advocacy services to vulnerable, disadvantaged, physically and mentally unwell members of society, who did not qualify for statutory support. April later worked as an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) within the statutory advocacy sector, advocating for clients detained under the Mental Health Act.

From an early age, April has been involved with various types of community charity work. Since working with those suffering from mental ill-health, April has contributed to raising funds for World Mental Health Day and has participated in training with Circles UK and for Barnardo’s to support victims of domestic abuse.

Project – Provision of legal and advocacy services to those experiencing mental health problems, who do not qualify for statutory support

This project aims to identify people who have mental health problems that do not qualify for advocacy services but require legal assistance. Once identified, the project would aim to provide legal services to this vulnerable group, adopting a rights-based approach.

This project will not seek to provide a like for like replacement of professional advocacy services. Instead it will attempt to provide specific and tailored legal services to those whose problems are beyond the capability of standard advocacy services.

For example, this service would not be aimed at a person with mental health problems seeking support with a routine healthcare appointment or complaint. But it would be aimed at a person who is in dispute with a company, organisation or other body over a point of law. It is important to make the distinction clear between general professional advocacy and the legal services which form the focus of this project.

The desire would also be to expand the project to provide more technology-based support. Technology and social media have been identified as an effective method of marketing this project's services and providing self-accessing support to those who are restricted as a result of their mental health. For instance, aiming to empower and support litigants in person, setting up pre-recorded videos, along with providing video link appointments - which would be especially useful for those suffering from a condition which makes social interaction difficult.

This project will address access to justice restrictions where there is currently a gap in services. It will provide support to vulnerable members of society to address a real problem, especially within the North East. The project has the potential for expansion, both in terms of services provided (i.e. areas of law) and the location these services are provided.

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