Last updated:2023-09-18
Legal aid to be reinstated for immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated child migrants
Marc Bloomfield
Yesterday saw the legal aid minister, Lucy Frazer QC, announce another climbdown by the government (Hansard HC Written Statement HCWS853, 12 July 2018): after a five-year campaign led by the charity the Children’s Society, legal aid for unaccompanied and separated child migrants in non-asylum cases will be reinstated.
The Children’s Society estimates that up to 15,000 children were denied access to justice through a combination of a lack of legal aid and spiralling increases in application fees (Helen Connolly, Richard Crellin and Rupinder Parhar, Cut off from justice: the impact of excluding separated and migrant children from legal aid, August 2017 update, page 16). The charity had successfully fought a judicial review against the government on the issue.
The change of policy on unaccompanied child migrants is the latest policy U-turn on legal aid into which the government has been forced. After the Law Centres Network’s successful judicial review last month ([2018] EWHC 1588 (Admin)), ministers are having to rethink their plans for the housing possession court duty schemes. In April this year, the Legal Aid Agency conceded (the day before the final hearing) another judicial review, following which it announced plans to extend legal aid to victims of modern slavery and trafficking.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said in a statement that the organisation was ‘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 decision offers new hope for unaccompanied migrant children’, Children’s Society press release, 12 July 2018). He also commended the government for making the change.
In her written statement, Frazer said an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 would be laid after all interested parties had been consulted.