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Government to bring immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children back into scope of legal aid

Date of Publication: 
12 July 2018
Summary: 

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice announces legal aid extension

Government to bring immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children back into scope of legal aid

12 July 2018
EIN

Lucy Frazer, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, has today made a statement to the House of Commons to announce that immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children will be brought back into scope of legal aid.

You can read statement here and we've reproduced it in full below.

The Children's Society, which had long campaigned for the reintroduction of legal aid, said in response: "This is brilliant news and an important change that will go a long way to protecting some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged children in our communities. We commend the Government on accepting that these young people should be entitled to legal aid and we will work with them to implement changes made as quickly as possible."

The Children's Society had warned that the lack of legal aid meant many children’s cases were ‘sat on’ or avoided altogether, leaving them locked in legal limbo, unable to regularise or settle their status, facing destitution or forced removal from the UK.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre also welcomed today’s announcement and said it looked forward to working with the Ministry of Justice to amend the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and to make the children’s access to justice a reality.

The Government's statement follows below:

______________________

Lucy Frazer (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice)

HCWS853

Justice Update

I wish to inform the House that I have decided to lay an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to bring immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children into scope of legal aid.

Under current legislation, legal aid is available in all asylum cases – for all age groups - and immigration cases where someone is challenging a detention decision. Legal aid for other immigration matters is available via the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme, which is intended to ensure legal aid is accessible in all cases where there is a risk of breach of human rights.

Following a judicial review brought by the Children's Society, we have examined both the evidence presented as part of the case and our data on applications for funding. Based on the distinct nature of the cohort in question, and of our data regarding them, I have decided to bring these cases into the scope of legal aid to ensure access to justice.

The amendment will be laid in due course following discussion across government and with external stakeholders.