The government’s reforms to legal aid have been a significant black mark on its record on children's rights, an influential parliamentary committee reports today.
The joint committee on human rights said that while the current government had made welcome steps, its successor should look again at legal aid and ‘undo some of the harm’ reforms have caused to children.
Committee chair Dr Hywel Francis, a Labour MP, said the government’s 2010 commitment to have due regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when making policy and law was a bold and welcome step. ‘In many areas things have improved for children over this parliament as a result, although the momentum set in train in 2010 has slowed considerably in some areas,' he said.
The committee's report notes that legal aid, and the proposal to introduce a residence test in particular, was cited by witnesses as being one of the areas of policy development most flagrantly in contravention of the UN convention.
Charity JustRights said it had warned the government about the harmful impact of legal aid cuts on children and young people since 2011. Co-chair James Kenrick said: ‘We are pleased that the committee recognises the disastrous impact of legal aid reforms and clearly accepts that there are, in fact, “firm grounds” for a review.’