Rachel Knowles, Just for Kids Law

Who? Rachel Knowles, solicitor at Just for Kids Law.

Why is she in the news? Just for Kids Law is intervening in R v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, which has just completed a two-day hearing in the Supreme Court.

The case concerns the compatibility of eligibility criteria for student loans based on indefinite leave to remain and three years’ lawful residence, with the right to education and the prohibition on discrimination. It is estimated that 500-600 schoolchildren a year are denied student loans by the current system.

The case is being brought on behalf of Zambian Beaurish Tigere, by Birmingham firm Public Interest Law.

Thoughts on the case: ‘This is the first intervention I have been involved with, and I have learned so much from the team at Matrix, who are working pro bono. Working with a large group of young people as clients, rather than just one individual, has been fantastic.

‘The Let us Learn campaign was started by an inspiring group of students. Meeting them has motivated me to work harder because they are all so dedicated, not only to their own education, but to long-term change for others in their situation.’

Dealing with the media: ‘Explaining the complex issues in this case has been a challenge, particularly as the media can respond negatively to cases involving issues relating to migration. However, once they have met the young people affected, they are usually very supportive.’

Why become a lawyer? ‘This is a bit corny, but to help people. Also, when I was 13 my parents suggested I might like to be a lawyer given my penchant for arguing with them. Somehow it stuck.’

Career high: ‘Standing outside the Supreme Court before the hearing started last week, with dozens of the young people affected. They turned up to demonstrate and listen to the case, along with my Just for Kids Law colleagues. It was an amazing experience.

Career low: ‘The cuts to legal aid that started with LASPO and haven’t really stopped since. These, combined with other public sector cuts, mean that I am seeing more children and young people whose rights have been eroded by local authorities on tight budgets.’