Brain Injury – A New Identity Card

September 25, 2017

Identity cards get a bad press, with their suggestion that ‘Big Brother’ is watching us.  And the last thing that many people with a brain injury want is to be labelled by their injury rather than as the person they are.

Headway’s Justice Project Looks at It Differently

This charity supports people to rebuild their lives after brain injury, and has heard all too often from people who’ve been picked up by shop security guards, or even the police, or refused service in banks, because they’re thought to be ‘under the influence’ of alcohol or drugs, or to lack capacity.

There’s worrying evidence that people who have survived brain injuries are over-represented in the criminal justice system, and that they’re more likely than others also to be the victims of crime.  So, it’s vital that people can easily prove, in a stressful situation when they may be wrongly stereotyped, that they are not drunk or drugged or lacking capacity, but living with the effects of an injury.  They have a right to this; the Mental Capacity Act itself starts with the presumption of capacity, and warns against stereotyping people on the basis of how they look or sound.

Headway has succeeded, brilliantly, in getting their new card supported by all the major police organisations in the UK, including the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which covers England and Wales, Police Scotland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, NHS England’s Liaison and Diversion Service, and the Police Federation of England and Wales.

The card was launched by Prince Harry, as part of Headway’s Justice Project.  ‘This is surely a life-changing moment’, the Prince said, before also noting that the card would be a ‘saving grace’ for the police as well as for brain injury survivors: police certainly don’t want to get it wrong and label people in such an unfair fashion.

Early and Clear Recognition of Brain Injury

Brain injury is described as ‘the hidden disability’. The primary aim of this project is to help police identify brain injury survivors at the earliest possible opportunity, so that they can get the support they need.  Thanks to the card’s utter acceptance by police at the highest level, it will make a significant difference to the way people living with the effects of a brain injury are treated when, and if, they come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Not Just Useful with The Police

Some people have asked whether they are eligible for the card since they never have problems with the police: and the answer is yes.  Quotes from people who’ve found them really useful are in Headway News, the charity’s magazine: ‘I have used mine at times of confusion when my speech is slurred and people think I’m drunk.  On the bus, in shops and in the bank.  People’s attitudes change from being impatient and intolerant to caring and helpful in a flash.’  And ‘I was not well one time and showed it to the ambulance drivers.  They found it very useful.’

Providers of services to people who live with the effects of a brain injury would find the card useful to promote more independent living, and as part of someone’s recovery of social skills.

How to Get the Card

This is available to anyone aged 18 or over who has a verifiable brain injury, whether or not they are involved with Headway.  It’s free of charge: all that is required is clinical verification of the head injury and a photo, together with some information of how the brain injury may affect the person’s behaviour or how they appear.

For more information see

Rachel Griffiths
Rachel Griffiths

Mental Capacity and Human Rights Specialist


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