The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has released its report on UK compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In a section on legal aid, which is critical of the scope cuts, exceptional funding and the residence test, it concludes:
The government’s reforms to legal aid have been a significant black mark on its human rights record during the second half of this Parliament. The two reports we agreed on the subject, at the end of 2013 and early in 2014, set out our concerns and what we feared might be the outcome of some of those reforms in terms of reducing access to justice for children. We acknowledge the few discrete areas in which the government helpfully accepted our concerns and reviewed elements of its reforms. However, the evidence we heard from the outgoing Children’s Commissioner for England and from all the NGOs we took oral evidence from provides firm grounds for a new government of whatever make-up to look again at these reforms and to undo some of the harm they have caused to children.
In a week in which Parliament is likely to dissolve ahead of the coming general election, this is a timely reminder of the effects LASPO has had, and the urgent need for a new government to review its effects – not just in respect of children, the focus of this report, but also more widely.
An election campaign gives those concerned with access to justice the opportunity to raise the profile of legal aid issues with canvassing politicians. A good place to start is LAPG’s excellent manifesto, launched last week, which sets out a range of measures a new government could adopt which would make a real difference.