I have supported Just for Kids Law from its creation by two wonderful women lawyers, Shauneen Lambe and Aika Stephenson. They had both worked in human rights at the sharp end and had become aware of a serious gap in the quality of provision of legal services for children and young people in the UK. Traditional practice is not equipped to address the special needs of this group, whose problems invariably are linked to their family life, their immigration status, an absence of care or difficulties in education. Offending by the young is invariably a consequence of their circumstances but lawyers skilled in criminal defence are often unskilled in welfare law, educational rights, the care system, immigration/asylum law and housing regulations and the whole experience of the child is rarely on their agenda.
JfK Law brings specialist knowledge and experience to complicated cases involving the human rights of children and young people. It also runs training courses for lawyers helping them understand how to best represent a child or young person.
It provides representation for those who are being excluded from school or having issues connected to care or fostering. It takes on educational authorities over the provision of special needs education for individual children. The list is lonng.
I think JfK Law is a most remarkable new kid on the block, an inspirational social invention in the law where innovation is rare. In these straitened times with legal aid being cut to the bone and public service law being denigrated, there has to be a rethink of how we ensure that the most vulnerable people receive proper representation. This move by Shauneen and Aika is pointing a new way for some service provision – with an established lawfirm providing the base and a charity operating alongside to meet the needs of sections of our communities who are ill-served by the law. But they need financial support to survive.
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
Helena is one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers. She has spent her professional life giving voice to those who have least power within the system, championing civil liberties and promoting human rights.
She has used many public platforms – including the House of Lords, to which she was elevated in 1997 – to argue with passion, wit and humanity for social justice.