Young people are being denied the right to justice because cuts to legal aid are preventing access to representation, a report by the office of the Children’s Commissioner said this week. Legitimate claims for housing, welfare and other cases are being left by the wayside, and young people overawed by officials are often unable to navigate complex and hostile bureaucracies, the report argued.
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, said this is a breach of rights guaranteed by United Nations conventions.
The report argues that the exceptional funding system created by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to help those whose human rights are at risk is not working: “Only 57 grants were provided in its first year, rather than the 3,700 the MoJ had expected, due to the complexity and strict criteria applied to the system”.
The Ministry of Justice’s changes to legal aid include slicing £350m off the civil legal aid budget.
Demonstrating that once again, the MoJ’s reforms will cost more in the long run, Atkinson said: “Short-term savings to one part of the legal system – legal aid – are simply shifting costs to another, because judges direct that representation has to be funded”.