Separated migrant children are now entitled to state funded legal support under new regulations which came into effect last week.
As a result of the 2013 ‘LASPO’ legal aid cuts, much immigration advice outside of asylum cases was slashed from the scheme; however the Legal Aid Separated Children Order 2019 now reinstates funding for those under 18 years of age who are not in the care of a parent, guardian or legal authority for immigration and citizenship matters.
‘This is a positive step to make sure we are offering the right support and protection to some of the most vulnerable in our society,’commented Justice minister, Wendy Morton MP. ‘These changes will mean migrant children who have been separated from their carers can access the vital legal support they need faster and more easily.’
Last year, during a judicial review brought by the children’s charity, Children’s Society, the Ministry of Justice was presented with evidence about the funding of applications for vulnerable young people after which it was decided that the scope of legal aid was to be extended.
Mark Russell, chief executive of the charity, welcomed the news and said that the government has ‘acted on their 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’.
Aika Stephenson of the legal charity, Just for Kids Law, said that whilst change was ‘extremely welcome, the government must now commit to ensuring that it reverses other measures in the LASPO Act 2012 so that all children, including care leavers, have access to the legal aid they need to ensure their rights and entitlements are respected.’