Legal aid 'residence test' will deny children and young people essential representation - Parliament to vote tomorrow!

8th July 2014

The ‘residence test’ – which would bar many young migrants and even some British nationals from receiving legal aid and was denounced last week by The Joint Committee on Human Rights as a breach of the UK’s obligations to children under international law – is due to be considered by Parliament this month.

The statutory instrument called the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2014 that will bring in the residence test for legal aid will only become law if both Houses of Parliament approve it. A vote in the House of Commons and a debate in the Lords both take place tomorrow!

Key dates:

·         MPs vote – Wednesday 9 July between 11am and 2 pm in the House of Commons 

·         Lords’ debate – Wednesday 9 July 2014

·         Lords’ vote 21 July 2014

Please email your MP or any Peer who you think may be prepared to stand up for children and young people’s access to justice.

The key issues you might wish to raise with Parliamentarians are:

·         If the test becomes law, a person will only be able to apply for legal aid in most civil cases if he or she can prove that he or she is:

1. In the UK lawfully; AND

2. Has been in the UK lawfully for a consecutive period of 12 months in the past.

·         By excluding many vulnerable children and young people from access to crucial legal help and representation in civil cases on the basis of residence and nationality, the residence test offends against basic principles of justice.

·         Children and young people will be disproportionately affected, as a high proportion of migrants to the UK are young.

·         The test will also affect many children and young people who have been in the UK for a number of years and even British nationals.

·         Even where people meet the criteria, they may not be able to prove it. This is very likely to affect children and young disproportionately. This is because the documentation required – including a current passport, a year’s worth of utility bills and bank statements – may be extremely difficult for many young people to provide. These are documents that even many adults simply don’t have access to in times of crisis.

·         Even though there are some cases where the test will not be applied (e.g. in domestic violence injunctions applications) there are many situations where the test will prevent crucial legal advice and help for those most in need. For instance, a child who is homeless who needs to bring a court challenge to get accommodation from social services; or a disabled young person wrongly denied community care services. What will happen to those young people without the essential legal representation that they need?

·         Parliaments’ expert human rights committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, last week released a report that was highly critical of the test, stating it was incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

More information

Briefing by the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association:

Briefing by JUSTICE:

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Publication date: 
Tuesday, July 8, 2014