19th February 2015
Following confirmation that the Ministry of Justice has abandoned its plans to review children's access to legal aid, JustRights today publishes further evidence of the impact of legal aid cuts on children and young people.
Justice for the young: a snapshot summarises new data released by the Ministry of Justice in response to parliamentary questions. It shows that:
- the numbers of children and young people receiving Social Welfare legal aid and Immigration and Asylum legal aid have fallen by nearly two-thirds to below even the post-LASPO levels anticipated by the Government;
- the safety net that the Government reassured MPs and Peers would prevent children and young people being denied access to justice is failing - only three children were granted legal aid under the Exceptional Case Funding scheme in the first 12 months for which figures are available.
Lawyers and legal aid has been written by young people as part of our ongoing Make Our Rights Reality campaign and expands on the demand in our youth manifesto to "Give us free access to solicitors who specialise in working with young people".
Joe Lee-Dowd, aged 21, a young campaigner working with JustRights, comments:
"Simon Hughes spoke about reviewing the impact of legal aid cuts on children as a matter of urgency, and now we are being told that we may have to wait until 2017 for this review - that's at least two more years of possible detriment to children and young people's rights and safety. Does he not realise that the changes have left children and young people vulnerable to abuse and exploitation right now? Young people are going to feel let down that he has failed to deliver on his promise, and question why it is that a matter of such 'urgency' has now been quietly swept under the carpet."
A petition set up by young people calling on the Government to "review young people's access to information, advice and legal support" is gathering momentum. Please add your voice!
JustRights is ready to work with whichever party or parties are in Government after the General Election to redesign legal aid funding and services so that existing resources are used more efficiently to meet the needs of vulnerable children and young people. We believe that young people's voices need to be heard and inform any decisions that may affect them.