New report from Coram Children’s Legal Centre highlights devastating impact of legal aid cuts on children
A new report published today by the Coram Children’s Legal centre (CCLC) demonstrates that, without funding for legal advice or representation as a result of changes to legal aid in 2013, some children have been left without the home, legal status, education or family access to which they are entitled.
The report Rights without remedies: legal aid and access to justice for children draws on evidence from CCLC’s legal advice services, which provide free advice and help to 20,000 children, young people or families every year. Focusing on family, education and immigration law, the report demonstrates the ways in which, without swift and reliable access to legal aid, children’s rights can be undermined. It calls for urgent changes to the government’s exceptional funding ‘safety net’ for vulnerable individuals, and for legal aid for all children in the care of local authorities or where children’s services are involved in private law family proceedings
Rights without remedies finds that the removal of vital areas of family, immigration and education law from the scope of legal aid has created risk of miscarriages of justice for thousands of children. This has exacerbated family breakdown, the costly and often unlawful exclusion of children from education, and destitution amongst migrant children, which places them at greater risk of exploitation.
Dr Carol Homden said:
“Since the changes to legal aid in 2013, all too many children have been unable to access the legal advice necessary for them to secure their futures. Coram Children’s Legal Centre has worked tirelessly to ensure that children have meaningful access to justice. But charities cannot, nor can they be expected to, fill the gaps left by limitations to a statutory service. We welcome the government’s review of the impact of those changes, and urge the government to take concrete steps to ensure all children and young people in the UK can be certain of access to the legal help they need.”
Elizabeth Durosinmi-Etti, a young person working with Coram who struggled to address her immigration issues because of the lack of legal aid, said
“It is absolutely illogical to say that children are the future but to put barriers in the way of them accessing justice. There has to be a legal system put in place that works to the benefit of children and young people. Until there is, all the system will have created are children and young people who are unable to take their places in society and fulfil their potential.”