12 Jul 2018

A long-running campaign led by The Children’s Society to secure legal aid for vulnerable migrant children has prompted a major U-turn by the Government.

Vulnerable migrant children who are in the UK alone have been facing a punishing combination of cuts to legal aid and skyrocketing Home Office application fees since 2013.

After a five-year long legal challenge by The Children’s Society, supported by other civil society organisations, the Government has agreed to reinstate legal aid for separated and unaccompanied children in their non-asylum immigration cases. 

The Children’s Society’s research suggests thousands of children have been denied legal aid since new legislation came into force in 2013.  Since then, only a small number have been able to access legal aid through Exceptional Case Funding. 

The change has left many children struggling to pay for the expert legal advice and representation they desperately need, which can cost thousands of pounds.

Reacting to the decision, The Children’s Society Chief Executive, Matthew Reed said: “The Children’s Society is 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 is absolutely vital for ensuring that children can access justice. For children who are subject to immigration control and who are in this country on their own, it is an absolute life line. The government should be commended for this significant change for children and young people.”

Media enquiries

For more information please call Senior Media Officer Rob Devey on 07814 525918 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editor

  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that works with the most vulnerable children and young people in Britain today. We listen. We support. We act. Because no child should feel alone.
  • The Government statement, made by justice spokesman Lord Keen of Elie, can be found on the Parliament website.
  • The Children’s Society’s joint research reports with Dr Helen Connolly at the University of Bedfordshire - ‘Cut Off From Justice’ in 2015 and the updated research in 2017 - considered the impact of cuts to legal aid in non-asylum immigration cases on separated and unaccompanied children: See www.childrenssociety.org.uk/legal-aid
  • The Children’s Society was represented in the case by Roopa Tanna at Islington Law Centre. Paul Bowen QC and Oliver Jones from Brick Court Chambers and Michelle Knorr and Zoe Harper from Doughty Street Chambers were the barristers instructed in the case. The case was supported by a number of civil society organisations.