A report published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in a Child Rights Impact Assessment of changes to civil and prison law legal aid since April 2013 has highlighted the worrying impact on children and young people that legal aid changes since 2013 have had, ( available here http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/content/publications/content_873)
The first in-depth rights based examination of the impact of legal aid changes on children since 2013 shows that in 70% of private family cases one or both parties did not have legal representation compared with 54% who had it previously.
Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England said:
“The human cost of legal aid reforms is clearly immense. Behind the evidence in our research are countless heart rending stories of children and vulnerable young adults whose lives have been seriously affected by their inability to access legal representation.”
The Child Rights Impact Assessment found a wide range of rights in the UNCRC were likely to be negatively impacted including:
- Article 9: The right not to be separated from parents without due process;
- Article 28: The right to an education;
- Article 19: The right to freedom from maltreatment;
- Article 3: The best interest of the child being the primary consideration- due to the lack of legal support for their views and experiences to be considered by decision-makers; and
- Article 12 – the right of the child to be heard and for his or her views to be given due weight. (http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/content/press_release/content_554)
The findings confirm what those of us seeking to provide access to justice for children find on a frequent basis. It is all too often children that are suffering because of the cuts to legal aid.
Barrister Garden Court Chambers (the views expressed in this article are the authors alone)
29th September 2014