Children’s Commissioner: ‘Impact Assessment on Legal Aid’

In September 2014, the Children’s Commissioner published Child Rights Impact Assessment on Legal Aid: Participation work with children and young people.

The work was done in light of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s recommendation that governments should assess the impact of all proposed legislation on children.

The research draws attention to the fact that:

  • The majority of interviewees did not know that the issue they faced was potentially a legal matter, capable of being resolved by recourse to the law.
  • Interviewees discovered the issue was a legal matter only after chance encounters and subsequent referrals to legal advice projects, sometimes years after first encountering the issue.
  • The majority of interviewees did not know that they could access Legal Aid or even that Legal Aid existed.
  • Interviewees were unable to resolve their cases without legal support and litigation, despite repeated attempts to do so unsupported.
  • Alternative remedies were only effective and appropriate in limited circumstances.
  • Being a litigant in person had a negative impact on proceedings as well as a long term impact on wellbeing.
  • Without legal intervention, those exercising public functions would have been likely to continue to fail to undertake their duties towards young people. It took recourse to law to force local authorities and others to meet their statutory duties towards often extremely vulnerable children and young adults.
  • Where Legal Aid had been removed, children and young adults relied upon charitable donations and pro bono legal projects in order to access necessary legal support.