Vulnerable migrant children who have been separated from their parents will get quicker and simpler access to legal aid, after new government legislation came into force on 25 October 2019.
The Legal Aid for Separated Children Order 2019 will bring non-asylum immigration and citizenship matters into the scope of legal aid for under 18s who are not in the care of a parent, guardian or legal authority.
Previously, vulnerable children making such applications to remain in the UK could only apply for legal aid through the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme.
Justice Minister Wendy Morton MP said: 'This is a positive step to make sure we are offering the right support and protection to some of the most vulnerable in our society. These changes will mean migrant children who have been separated from their carers can access the vital legal support they need faster and more easily. The Ministry of Justice has worked with The Children’s Society and other children’s charities on the amendment and will continue to do so as it comes into force.'
Mark Russell, CEO the Children’s Society, said: 'We are delighted the government has acted on their promise to ensure separated and unaccompanied children can resolve immigration issues and secure their citizenship, without the stress of applying for exceptional case funding, or trying to navigate complex human rights law all alone.'
The amendment is in addition to publication of the department’s Legal Support Action Plan earlier this year. This committed to improving the Exceptional Case Funding scheme, along with a series of pilots to test the most effective forms of early legal support.
Reviews have also begun into the legal aid means test to ensure accessibility into the future, along with the entire criminal legal aid system through the Criminal Legal Aid Review.