24th March 2015
Influential parliamentary committee backs JustRights' call for a review of children and young people's access to justice
In a report published today, the Joint Committee on Human Rights heavily criticises the Government's record on children's rights, highlighting in particular the detrimental impact of legal aid cuts.
The Coalition-dominated expert human rights committee's report, The UK's compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, states:
"The Government's reforms to legal aid have been a significant black mark on its human rights record during the second half of this Parliament..... the evidence we heard from the outgoing Children's Commissioner for England and from all the NGOs we took oral evidence from provides firm grounds for a new Government of whatever make-up to look again at these reforms and to undo some of the harm they have caused to children."
JustRights has warned the Government about the harmful impact of legal aid cuts on children and young people since 2011. Last December, JustRights set up a petition calling for a review of young people's access to advice and legal support and since then has been working on new ideas that would ensure young people's legal needs are met.
James Kenrick, Co-Chair of JustRights, says:
"No child or young person should have to navigate our complex legal system alone. Despite official data showing a calamitous collapse in legal aid for young people, the Government remains in denial and has told us, bizarrely, that there is insufficient evidence to justify looking at the evidence.
"We are pleased that the Committee recognises the disastrous impact of legal aid reforms and clearly accepts that there are, in fact, 'firm grounds' for a review. With vulnerable children and young people being left at risk of harm every day, there is no time to waste."
1. The Joint Committee on Human Rights' membership includes five Conservatives, four Labour members, two Liberal Democrats and one Cross-bencher. Click here for their report
2. JustRights is a coalition of 32 charities and NGOs campaigning for fair access to advice, advocacy and legal representation for children and young people. www.justrights.org.uk ;www. twitter.com/JustRights1/
3. Last month, JustRights published official data showing:
- a collapse in Social Welfare and Immigration legal aid for children and young people;
- only three children were granted 'exceptional' legal aid funding in the first 12 months for which figures are available.
4. For further information and access to interviewees, please contact James Kenrick (firstname.lastname@example.org; 07935344881) or Laura Janes (Laura.Janes@howardleague.org; 07817 962 206)
Tuesday, March 24, 2015