Six major children’s charities have joined together to voice concerns that children will be denied access to justice in proposed changes to legal aid.
The Children’s Society, NSPCC, National Children’s Bureau, UNICEF UK, Barnardo’s and Action for Children argue in an open letter that changes - being debated in parliament today (Wednesday 7 March) - could see around 6,000 children each year lose their eligibility for legal aid help and representation for cases in their own right.
This would leave them exposed to potential danger and abuse, it is argued. Many of these children, including victims of human trafficking and exploitation, do not have parents or carers who would be able to help them.
'The responsibility of the government'
The letter states: 'Children are fundamentally different to adults. They have less capacity to make complex decisions or to represent themselves effectively in legal proceedings.
'The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child strongly emphasises the responsibility of the government to ensure children have prompt access to legal support when they need it. However, these considerations are absent from the government’s impact assessment of legal aid cuts.'
The letter reveals that it would cost less than £10 million for under-18s to receive legal aid in their own right – a fraction of the legal aid bill.
For more information, please call David Dinnage in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or email email@example.com. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.
Notes to editors
The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.