An amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) comes into effect today (25 October 2019) that bringing non-asylum immigration matters back into the scope of legal aid for separated migrant children. The long-awaited new rules come as a result of a legal challenge by The Children's Society, who successfully argued that a 2013 law which removed access to legal aid for thousands of children was unlawful.
Just for Kids Law has helped to shape the new rules, feeding evidence from our casework into the government's consultation on the amendment. This has helped to ensure that eligibility for legal aid extends to any child not being cared for by a parent, not being cared for by anyone with parental responsibility (under Section 3 of the Children’s Act), or who is looked after by a local authority.
Responding to the news, Aika Stephenson, Founder and Legal Director at Just for Kids Law, said:
"Migrant children are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. When they are left without legal representation, it is often impossible for their right to remain in this country to be formally recognised. We frequently work with children who have never had the opportunity to understand their legal rights in relation to their immigration status, including their right to British Citizenship. Bringing non-asylum immigration matters back into the scope of legal aid for unaccompanied children is therefore an important step towards ensuring that migrant children in the care system, and those who are otherwise separated from their parents, are able to access robust legal advice and support to obtain the right to stay in the country they call home. While this change is extremely welcome, the Government must now commit to ensuring that it reverses other measures in LASPO (the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) so that all children, including care leavers, have access to the legal aid they need to ensure their rights and entitlements are respected.”