We are excited to report that lawyers working with Kids in Need of Defense UK in partnership with MiCLU have submitted their first application for leave to remain to the Home Office – with a positive outcome for their young client.

Lawyers of the Covington & Burling team

This is a great step forward for a unique initiative that aims to protect rights, provide free high quality legal representation and increase access to justice for vulnerable children and young people with insecure immigration status in the UK.

The Kids in Need of Defense UK project takes a similar approach to its American counterpart, KIND US, by connecting experienced children’s immigration lawyers with private firms able to offer pro bono legal services. (For more information about KIND Inc in the US click here.)

The UK programme is led by the Central England Law Centre (CELC), with the project hub at MiCLU now operational, services in progress at CELC, and Coram Children’s Legal Centre scheduled to bring their Children’s Pro Bono Legal Service into the Kids in Need of Defense UK fold in 2018. Kids In Need of Defense UK is now advising children and their families and is taking steps to change lives. For more information about how it works, click here.

Kids in Need of Defense UK aims to build on its partnerships and recruit more firms into the project, eventually creating a national network of pro bono lawyers able to address a range of immigration legal problems and work effectively with children. In working with children it is essential to understand and pay proper regard to their best interests, wishes and needs.

Since starting to take referrals in February 2017, MiCLU’s hub for Kids in Need of Defense UK has placed 12 clients with legal teams, with talented children’s lawyers assisting throughout the process, from referral to the submission of applications.

Kids in Need of Defense UK was created to increase access to justice following cuts to legal aid when the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force on 1 April 2013.  The project aims to enable children to access legal advice on immigration matters for which they cannot receive legal aid, where other charities working in the field are unable to assist.

As our Precarious Citizenship report established, the excision of almost all immigration cases from legal aid funding has potentially disastrous consequences for children and young people who are unable to evidence their right to remain in the UK – especially those who are separated from their parents or guardians.

Many of these individuals are eligible to apply for citizenship, leave to remain or even hold a ‘hidden’ claim for international protection as a refugee or modern slavery victim, but cannot afford to have their legal needs assessed or addressed under current funding arrangements. Uncertain immigration status becomes an insurmountable barrier to accessing a range of services that are fundamental to the well-being and development of children.

The possibility of regularisation, on the other hand, can be a route out of poverty and into a better life.

Supervising lawyers from MiCLU have now trained and mentored private practice lawyers from Covington & Burling LLP, Microsoft’s in-house legal team, Kirkland & Ellis International LLP, and Ropes & Gray International LLP, guiding them through the complexities of immigration and human rights law as well as providing practical advice on supporting young and vulnerable clients.

We are incredibly proud that our inaugural application was made by Covington & Burling on behalf of a lone young person who is a survivor of abuse and whose unresolved immigration status was blocking her progress to a brighter future. We are pleased to say that the application was successful, and the young person has moved on from undocumented status, to having leave to remain in the UK and access to public funds.

The commitment and phenomenal hard work of the pro bono lawyers to submit this immigration application has been inspirational, and we look forward to continuing to work with colleagues of such dedication and calibre, and to changing more young lives for the better.