Easier access to Legal Aid for unaccompanied children

Better Access To Legal Aid For Separated Migrant Children

Today saw a new Government legislation amendment allowing vulnerable migrant children, separated from their parents, to get quicker and simpler access to Legal Aid.

The Legal Aid for Separated Children Order 2019 has allowed non-asylum immigration and citizenship matters to come under the scope of Legal Aid for under 18s that are not in the care of a parent, guardian or legal authority. Previously, applications by vulnerable children seeking to remain in the UK fell under the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme. The amendment is an addition to the department’s Legal Support Action Plan, which is committed to improving the ECF scheme which tests the most effective forms of early legal support.

The commitment to bring immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children under the scope of Legal Aid, with an amendment to LASPO 2012, was first raised in a written ministerial statement by former Justice Minister Lucy Frazer MP in July 2018, following a judicial review brought by The Children’s Society. The Children’s Society had found in 2015, that thousands of children in the UK, who were unaccompanied, were being denied access to the law and at risk of exploitation, unfair treatment, sexual abuse and homelessness.

The Ministry of Justice has worked with various children’s charities on the amendment, including The Children’s Society, and will continue to work with them as it comes into force.

Mark Russell, CEO the Children’s Society, in reaction to the amendment stated:

“We are delighted the government has acted on their promise to ensure separated and unaccompanied children can resolve immigration issues and secure their citizenship, without the stress of applying for exceptional case funding, or trying to navigate complex human rights law all alone. “We look forward to working closely with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that affected children and the professionals supporting them know about this vital change.”

Justice Minister Wendy Morton MP said:

“This is a positive step to make sure we are offering the right support and protection to some of the most vulnerable in our society. “These changes will mean migrant children who have been separated from their carers can access the vital legal support they need faster and more easily.”

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