Clan Childlaw calls for child-friendly legal aid system
Date: 4th March 2022
Category: Children in conflict with the law
In response to a current consultation about financial eligibility for those applying for legal aid, Clan Childlaw is calling for a more child-friendly and accessible legal aid system.
Under the existing legal aid system, children and young people are expected to traverse a complex system that isn’t built to suit their needs. Legal aid forms, guidelines and application processes have not been adapted to meet the needs of children and young people, detailed financial assessment forms that are unsuitable for school-aged children with no income, parents or caregivers’ financial circumstances may also be considered and requires applicants to complete complex forms and produce extensive documentation to support their applications.
Clan Childlaw is calling for the following changes:
- If they are in full-time education, care leavers, looked after by the local authorities, or receiving income benefits, under-18s should automatically qualify for legal aid without financial evaluation;
- Unless they are financially independent, no one under the age of 18 should be forced to contribute to their legal bills;
- Young people under the age of 18 who are financially self-sufficient should be given free assistance in gathering the information and documentation they need for their application;
- The Legal Aid Board, not the young person, should bear the burden of gathering information and documentation;
- Extended deadlines and multiple opportunities to produce documents or information should be given to all candidates under the age of 18; and
- Child-friendly forms should be created, with easy-to-understand language and just pertinent inquiries.