Children to lose access to legal aid in government shake up

Campaigners have said that once the governments plans to shake up the legal aid system, thousands of children will lose access to the service. JustRights, the children’s rights group, have analysed government data that was obtained from a series of FOI, Freedom of Information, requests. It claims that 6000, or 13% of those who get help with their legal aid costs, will lose out in the new reforms.

The government has repeatedly denied this, saying that legal aid will remain in place for almost all children’s cases. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is now returning to the Commons after suffering a series of defeats in the Lords.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice has said that the reforms are targetting legal aid

where it is most needed and this means that the bill is protecting spending for the majority of cases where a child is one of the parties, and they are maintaining 96% of their current spend. He added that of the remaining cases, many of them would have the potential to be eligible for ‘exceptional payments’.

The bill is removing whole areas of the law from the legal aid system as part of their plans to cut the Ministry of Justice’s budget by £350m and also speed up the system. Some of the controversial areas that are covered by the bill include women who are the victims of domestic abuse, disabled people benefit cases, and the children. The areas where the children will be most affected in is cases of immigration, housing, benefits and social welfare.

James Kenrick is the co-chairman of JustRights and he says that the government’ claim that 96% of the budget set aside for cases involving children will remain unaffected is very misleading. He said that when you look at the plans and the number of cases they intend to cut, it actually adds up to 13% of cases, a great deal more than the government are claiming.