Vulnerable migrant children who have been separated from their parents will get quicker and simpler access to legal aid, after new government legislation came into force.
In 2013, separated migrant children were no longer entitled to legal aid to support them through non-asylum immigration matters, which led to a high profile legal challenge by The Children's Society against the government.
University of Bedfordshire academic, Dr Helen Connolly, was commissioned by The Children's Society to research the impact of excluding separated children from legal aid. This research was used as key evidence in the case with the legal challenge settled out of court and subsequently leading to the Legal Aid for Separated Children Order 2019.
The Legal Aid for Separated Children Order 2019 will bring non-asylum immigration and citizenship matters into the scope of legal aid for under 18s who are not in the care of a parent, guardian or legal authority.
Previously, vulnerable children making such applications to remain in the UK could only apply for legal aid through the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme.
Dr Helen Connolly, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bedfordshire, said: “This is a highly significant achievement in the protection of one of the most vulnerable groups of children in our society.
“It was the result of a highly effective partnership between The Children's Society, Brick Court Chambers, Doughty Chambers, Islington Law Centre and the University of Bedfordshire, and of the Ministry of Justice engaging responsibly with the evidence. It was a privilege to have been involved."
We are absolutely delighted to announce that separated and unaccompanied children will have access to legal aid to help with immigration and citizenship cases from today. https://t.co/uLRAOqVBdN— The Children’s Society Policy Team (@ChildSocPol) 25 October 2019
Mark Russell, CEO the Children’s Society, said: “We are delighted the government has acted on its 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.”
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