The launch of a new identity card has been praised by a North East brain injury survivor, who believes it will greatly benefit people in securing the support they need.

His Royal Highness Prince Harry today officially launched a new initiative by Headway, a charity that supports people affected by brain injury.

The card is part of the charity’s Justice Project, which aims to raise awareness of brain injury within the criminal justice system, and ensure survivors are identified at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure they receive appropriate support.

The ID card has the additional benefit of breaking down social exclusion, with holders having renewed confidence in the knowledge they can easily explain their support needs should they require assistance in everyday situations.

Charles Southam, 28, from Bedlington, who receives support from local group Headway Tyneside, said he thought the card would be very beneficial.

He said: “Brain injury is often a hidden disability and people struggle to understand that service users have anything wrong with them because they look so ‘normal’.

“Brain injury survivors can struggle in particular social situations and may appear rude or drunk. People may feel anxious and struggle to explain their situation, and so by having an identify card with you, it allows you to show people to help them understand and avoid any difficulties.”

Sue Giles, from Newcastle, said that carrying the identity card is a welcome boost for her and husband Dave, who has a brain injury. As Dave requires support from Sue to walk and has slurred speech, the couple were once turned away from a pub by bouncers, who wrongly believed Dave was severely intoxicated.

“In this kind of situation, the card would have been extremely useful, and would have helped easily explain our circumstances” said Sue.

“Carrying the card will undoubtedly increase confidence and will hopefully ensure it’s very unlikely people like us will face the embarrassment of having to explain our situation while we are out enjoying time as a family.

“I will be carrying the card at all times and do feel relieved that it is in existence. I think it’s a great idea.”

To access a Headway Brain Injury Identity Card, which is personalised to include the individual’s photo and lists some of the effects they commonly experience, applicants are asked to provide clinical verification of their brain injury.

The card also includes a unique 24-hour criminal legal helpline managed by a firm of solicitors trained in understanding brain injury.

John Davis, Chair of Headway Tyneside, said: “We are delighted that Prince Harry has generously agreed to support this important project.

“The hidden effects of brain injury can often lead to misunderstandings and difficulties for survivors.

“Many people are assumed to be drunk as a result of having slurred speech or an unsteady gait, with attempts to explain the effects of their brain injury often being ignored.

Brain injury is widely misunderstood in all facets of society and those working in the criminal justice system are certainly not alone in struggling to identify and appropriately support those affected.

“It is vital, however, that vulnerable adults living with the long-term effects of brain injury are identified at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Being a victim of crime or being arrested can be a traumatic time for anyone, but can be particularly traumatic for a survivor of a brain injury.

“They may be confused, afraid and emotional about the situation they find themselves in. They may also experience severe anxiety or anger management issues from being confronted, left alone, being in a noisy environment, or being in a confined space.

“This project not only helps police to quickly identify brain injury survivors, but it also enables people to access specialist legal support from solicitors with expertise and understanding of brain injury.”

The Headway Brain Injury Identity Card is supported by organisations across the UK, including the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which covers England and Wales, Police Scotland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Appropriate Adult Network, and NHS England’s Liaison and Diversion Service.

The card launch follows the scheme being successfully piloted at various Headway centres across the UK, with card holders describing the positive impact it was having on their confidence and ability to access support.

For more information about the Justice Project and details of how to apply for a Headway Brain Injury Card visit www.headway.org.uk/idcard.