On the day that the legal aid bill is being debated in parliament, The Children’s Society has expressed serious concerns about the impact of the cuts to legal aid to thousands of children, many of whom are extremely vulnerable.
The proposals would exclude at least 6,000 children from receiving the legal support they desperately need and the charity believe this will have grave consequences. The Government has stated that for some excluded cases there will be a safety net in the form of an exceptional funding scheme – but crucially over 4,000 children will not be eligible for this scheme. According to the government’s own calculations, it would cost just £10 million annually to protect all under-18s.
Navigating a complex legal system with no support
Cuts will be made to areas of law including education, housing, immigration and clinical negligence leaving children without the vital support they need and deserve. Many children, including separated (unaccompanied) migrant children and victims of trafficking, will be left to navigate a complex legal system with no support including going to court without a lawyer or being made vulnerable to exploitation in order to raise funds for legal support.
All children should have access to legal advice and representation
Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: ‘We believe that different principles should apply to children in an adult legal system. All children should have access to good quality publically funded legal advice and representation. Legal aid is already limited to those who can’t afford it.
‘These changes will also affect the poorest and most marginalised families in our society and many more children will suffer as a knock-on effect. It is imperative that access to justice is maintained.’
Notes to Editors
The Children’s Society is a leading national charity, driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. We provide vital help to the most vulnerable children, young people and families in our society through a range of services. Our services include helping young people to access legal services as well as supporting them through the legal process when no-one else will.
For further information please contact Lorna Harris in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org