Children’s Human Rights Breached By Legal Aid Residence Tests

According to a parliamentary committee, children deprived of legal representation by the introduction of residency tests, are having their international rights breached.

The House of Commons and Lords’ joint committee on human rights (JCHR) has warned that the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) proposals to deny legal aid to children who have been in the UK for less than a year will leave those born overseas unable to participate in cases affecting their lives and breaches the UK’s obligations under the UN convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC).

The committee’s report said that no information had been provided to show how many children would be affected and how much money would be saved by the proposals.

The committee is calling for all children to be exempted from the residency test, particularly since an exceptional funding safety net, set up by the MoJ for cases that deserve financial support in areas that are no longer routinely paid for, is not working, according to the report.

A recent ruling by the High Court found that the exceptional funding arrangements are too restrictive in immigration cases and, therefore, unlawful, which, according to the committee, raises concerns as to whether the exceptional funding regime is in practice ensuring that all individual cases are being funded in those instances where failure to do so would be a breach of the European convention on human rights or European Union law.

The committee also warned that four categories of children were most likely to be adversely affected, namely unaccompanied children who have entered the UK, undocumented children, children with special educational needs or disabilities and those cases involving children under certain sections of the Children Act 1989.