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Legal aid restored for migrant children in care

Sep 29, 2018, 22:02 PM
Family Law, legal aid, LASPO, migrant children, The Children's Society, Coram
Lawyers have welcomed the Government’s U-turn on legal aid for unaccompanied and separated children in care.
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Date : Jul 16, 2018, 04:00 AM
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Lawyers have welcomed the Government’s U-turn on legal aid for unaccompanied and separated children in care.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed last week it will seek to amend LASPO (the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) to bring immigration matters for such children back within the ambit of legal aid.

MoJ spokesperson for the House of Lords, Lord Keen, told Parliament in a written statement:

'Following a judicial review brought by the Children’s Society, we have examined both the evidence presented as part of the case and our data on applications for funding… I have decided to bring these cases into the scope of legal aid to ensure access to justice.

The amendment will be laid in due course following discussion across Government and with external stakeholders.' 
The Children’s Society Chief Executive, Matthew Reed, said: 

'The Children’s Society is delighted with this excellent news. This is an important change in policy which will go a long way to protecting some of the most marginalised and vulnerable young people in our communities.

Legal aid is absolutely vital for ensuring that children can access justice. For children who are subject to immigration control and who are in this country on their own, it is an absolute life line. The Government should be commended for this significant change for children and young people.'
Coram Children’s Legal Centre (Coram) has estimated there are several thousand children in local authority care where immigration is the primary issue, rather than asylum or trafficking. It gives the example of a 19-year-old care leaver from Jamaica, brought to the UK aged seven with his parents, taken into care aged 15, whose leave to remain expired a year later and whose social worker did not take action to help him resolve his immigration status before he turned 18.

A Coram spokesperson said:

‘We have long urged the Government to examine the impact on children’s rights of the legal aid changes and are glad they have finally listened.’ 
Coram is urging the Government to ensure local authority frontline staff are informed of the forthcoming changes.

Bar Chairman Andrew Walker QC said: 

‘Some very vulnerable people should now find it easier to obtain the ;egal advice and representation they need in order to resolve their immigration cases fairly and in accordance with the rule of law. 

This year, particularly through the Windrush scandal, the public has been made aware of how poor the Home Office’s administration and decision-making can be in far too many cases, and of the terrible impact this can have on the lives of those who are entitled to rights and protection under UK law. Legal aid is essential if rights and the protection of the law are to be meaningful, as judicial review may be the only way that those who have been treated unfairly can force the Home Office to abide by the law and to apply it correctly.’
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