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Regulations published to bring back legal aid for unaccompanied children


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Government press offices are adept at milking good news. The Ministry of Justice’s self-congratulatory press release announcing the restoration of immigration legal aid for unaccompanied children comes over a year after the department first made this announcement.

Justice minister Paul Maynard said:

It is absolutely right that legal aid should be available to separated migrant children to resolve their immigration status, which is why this has always been available through the Exceptional Case Funding Scheme.

As Alison says, it has been “absolutely right” since 2012, but it has taken many years of lawyers and NGOs like the Children’s Society pointing this out to get legal aid restored.

The actual amendment is contained in the draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Legal Aid for Separated Children) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019. It adds to the list of services covered by legal aid, in Schedule 1 of LASPO, the following:

(a) an application made by the separated child or another person under the immigration rules for the grant of entry clearance, leave to enter or leave to remain in the United Kingdom (whether under or outside of the immigration rules),

(b) an application made by the separated child outside of the immigration rules for the grant of leave to remain in the United Kingdom, or

(c) an application made by the separated child for registration under the British Nationality Act 1981 as—

(i) a British citizen,

(ii) a British overseas territories citizen,

(iii) a British Overseas citizen, or

(iv) a British subject.

Once signed off by Parliament, the regulations come into force immediately.

The change is expected to cost £1 million a year, or half an investor visa. Last year, the civil legal aid budget was £737 million.

Separately, the Home Office has announced changes to what it calls “section 67” leave, granted to children brought into the UK under the Dubs Amendment (section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016). It says that 

Currently, the Immigration Rules only provide for section 67 leave to be granted to those who have already had an application for refugee status or humanitarian protection refused. This means that upon arrival in the United Kingdom, the child is required to go through the process of claiming asylum, including providing an account of why they fled their country of origin.

We intend to amend the existing Rules to allow those transferring under section 67 to receive this form of leave immediately, as soon as they arrive.

This will presumably be implemented in the next set of changes to the Immigration Rules.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.