Cuts in legal aid could go against UN convention

Concerns have been raised that depriving children of legal aid by bringing in a residency test is in breach of their international rights.

The House of Commons and Lords’ joint committee on human rights (JCHR) has warned that the proposals will mean youngsters are unable to participate in cases that decide their future.

This, they say, would be in contravention of the UN convention on the rights of the child.

Hywel Francis MP, who chairs the JCHR, said: “As long as children have a legal right to take part in proceedings which affect their interests, it is wrong – indeed unlawful – to make it more difficult for a particular group of children to exercise that right.

“We do not feel that the Government has supplied enough evidence to justify why children should not be excluded altogether from the residence test, and we feel that it has not given enough thought to some of the practical obstacles which children will face.”

The changes would affect children who have been in the country for less than a year, although the exact number remains unclear. The committee has also raised concerns that it is unclear how much money would be saved by the reforms.

They are therefore urging the Ministry of Justice to make all children exempt from the residency tests.

Cuts to legal aid have proven hugely controversial, with celebrities including Stephen Fry and the actress Maxine Peake campaigning against the changes.

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