A Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) report has found that the narrowing in scope of provision of legal aid by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has resulted in thousands of children being left without access to free legal advice and representation each year.
The Rights without remedies report emphasises that the availability of publicly funded legal advice is key to protecting children, young people and families who otherwise would be unable to afford legal advice, assistance and representation and access to the court system.
CCLC urges that access to justice for all children, especially the marginalised, socially excluded and most at risk, should be ensured. The report calls on the Government to undertake a detailed assessment of legal aid and its impact on children and young people and to commit to amending the system as a matter of urgency. Further recommendations include:
Funded early legal advice, with the offer of follow-up in writing, should be provided in private family law cases, and widely advertised.
Legal aid should be reinstated in all cases where there is local authority involvement in private law children proceedings, including in relation to special guardianship orders.
Legal aid should be available in all cases in which a child is at risk of abuse.
The cost of experts attending SEN hearings should be covered by legal aid.
Continued funding should be provided for public legal advice on education law issues.
The Government should reinstate legal aid for all unaccompanied and separated migrant children in matters of immigration.
The Legal Aid Agency must reform the exceptional case funding system.
Click here to read the report and its recommendations in full.