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Children's Commissioner's response to proposals for the reform of legal aid in England and Wales

15 February 2011

Children's Commissioner comments on Ministry of Justice consultation on proposals for the reform of legal aid in England and Wales:

Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"My response to the consultation focused on the scope of what is proposed to be taken out of legal aid and highlights three areas of particular concern - education, immigration and private family law. Our concern is that the proposals will deprive children of the right to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings affecting them either as litigants in their own right or through their parent's solicitors. The right of the child to be heard in such proceedings is established by Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"The proposals are therefore potentially devastating for some of the most vulnerable children in our society, those with special educational needs, children subject to deportation or removal or whose parent may be removed, unaccompanied children applying to remain, and children caught up in divorce proceedings or in the care system. I'm asking the Ministry of Justice to look again at these proposals from a child's perspective and to acknowledge that our international obligations require us to ensure that all children have access to justice."

Notes to editors

1. You can read our full response here.

2. The Children's Commissioner for England was established under The Children Act 2004 to be the independent voice of children and young people and to champion their interests and bring their concerns and views to the national arena.  The Commissioner's work must take regard of children's rights (the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) and seek to improve the wellbeing of children and young people. 

3. The Children's Commissioner for England is the only national statutory organisation in England with the power to enter places where children are living, other than private homes, to interview them in private which reports on issues from the child's perspective. We can also ask organisations about which we have reported to respond to our recommendations and initiate inquiries into cases where they raise issues of public policy relevance to other children.

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Sandeep Shah 
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