What is Kids in Need of Defense UK?
Kids In Need of Defense UK is a collaboration between the US Charity KIND, Inc and three legal advice charities in the UK. Kids in Need of Defense UK aims to translate the US pro bono model of KIND Inc into the UK legal landscape – a self-sustaining pro bono programme of legal representation for migrant children and young people where there is inadequate, or no legal aid representation, available.
KIND Inc was established in the US in 2009 by Angelina Jolie and Microsoft, to address the lack of legal advice and representation available to unaccompanied children going through immigration proceedings in the US. Although many unaccompanied children in the US had refugee claims or potential applications for legal permission to stay, lack of access to legal advice and representation meant that they were unaware of their rights, and unable to put their cases forward adequately or at all, and they faced removal to countries in which their lives were at risk.
Although there is no formal legal aid system in the US comparable to that in the UK, all attorneys in the US are required to complete a certain percentage of their annual billable hours carrying out work on a pro bono basis. The KIND model harnesses that pro bono resource, and combines it with expert supervision and mentorship provided by KIND’s own immigration attorneys. This enables pro bono attorneys from large corporate firms to take on unaccompanied children’s cases directly, and to represent them in their immigration cases with a view to obtaining permission for the children to remain in the US.
In addition to legal representation KIND also has a Public Education and Outreach programme, and regional operations targeted at improving the lives of children in source countries for migration to the US.
See more information about KIND in the US here.
Until 1st April 2013, unaccompanied children in the UK could access legal aid in relation to asylum or immigration applications subject to financial eligibility. On 1st April 2013, the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“LASPO”) came into force, and removed most non-asylum immigration matters from the scope of legal aid. This meant that children who had established significant private and family life in the UK during a period of long residence, or because of their particular life circumstances, could no longer access legal aid to obtain advice and representation in relation to an application to remain in the UK on that basis.
Although LASPO provided for an ‘Exceptional Case Funding’ system, this was complicated, and impossible for children to navigate alone.
An estimated 120,000 undocumented (or unresolved) children live in the UK, many of whom are entitled to British citizenship or a right to remain (Nando Sigona and Vanessa Hughes (2012) No way out, no way in: irregular migrant children and families in the UK. Oxford: ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford).
MiCLU is committed to improving the lives of migrant and refugee children via access to justice, legal and policy work. Our report Precarious Citizenship sets out our findings from our research into the experiences of 52 undocumented children and young people represented by MiCLU during 2012 – 2016. The findings were stark. Undocumented children and young people largely had no choice in the decision to bring them to the UK:
However, they had to deal with the consequences:
The loss of legal aid in immigration cases was a cruel blow for undocumented children and young people, and MiCLU understands that the implications of being unable to regularise their status has the potential to blight young lives.
MiCLU is therefore proud to be part of Kids in Need of Defense UK.
Who is involved?
Kids in Need of Defense UK is led by Central England Law Centre (CELC), with advice and representation hubs based at CELC and MiCLU from 2017, and at Coram Children’s Legal Centre via their Children’s Pro Bono Legal Service, which will form part of Kids in Need of Defense UK from 2018. The UK law centres involved specialise in providing legal advice and representation to vulnerable migrant groups with a mission to protect children’s rights.
Each law centre partners with corporate law firms, providing training to their lawyers in relation to immigration law, and working with children and young people, providing a supported referral stage, and then providing close support and mentorship throughout the client’s application.
Kids in Need of Defense UK offers a chance for corporate lawyers to use their existing skills, while gaining new skills, to transform the life of a young person. We focus on a child-centred approach, with the best interests of children at the heart of our service, and a commitment to improving their circumstances and life chances.
By working nationally we hope to gather further evidence of the challenges faced by undocumented children, and to provide a voice for these marginalised young people that increases the possibilities for them to fulfil their potential and to fully integrate into life in the U.K.
MiCLU’s pro bono partners
Each Kids in Need of Defense UK hub works with a group of pro bono partners to deliver the Kids in Need of Defense UK service.
MiCLU’s pro bono partners in Kids in Need of Defense UK are currently:
Covington & Burling LLP
Microsoft (in house legal team)
Kirkland & Ellis International LLP
Ropes & Gray International LLP
We are very grateful for the support and commitment of our pro bono partners and the dedication and care they show to their Kids in Need of Defense UK clients. It has been a pleasure to train all of the legal teams involved, and the calibre of the service provided to the children and their families is phenomenal. In a time of austerity and cuts to services, it is such a pleasure to work with people who consistently want to do more!
How does it work?
By training teams of pro bono lawyers to provide advice and to prepare applications for leave to remain on behalf of children, we seek to try to regain the ground that was lost when legal aid was removed, to increase access to justice for undocumented children, and to ensure that each child receives high quality, tailored advice and representation.
MiCLU’s supervising solicitor provides training to the pro bono lawyers, prepares template documents for use in the cases, provides close supervision throughout the life of the case, and mentors the pro bono legal teams as they work on applications and submit them to the Home Office.
Referrals come from frontline agencies direct to the MiCLU team, and suitable cases are then placed with legal teams at each pro bono partner.
Pro bono lawyers feel confident in their knowledge, and supported to provide the same high quality service to pro bono clients that they provide to their more traditional client base.
Referral agencies feel confident that they are referring service users into a high quality programme which will lead to the best possible application being submitted to the Home Office.
Clients are offered a lifeline – free legal advice from a dedicated team which combines the resources and quality of a corporate law firm, with the knowledge and understanding of the sector offered by a law centre.
At present, we are accepting referrals of cases in which a child (under 18) has spent 7 years of their life living continuously in the UK, and for whom removal to their country of origin or nationality would be unreasonable (‘7 year applications’).
Where the child or family are unable to pay the Home Office application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge, the application will include an Appendix 1 (FLR(FP)) application for the fee and the health surcharge to be waived on human rights grounds.
Where appropriate, the application will include a request that any leave to remain is granted without a condition prohibiting access to public funds.
MiCLU’s hub is currently only able to accept referrals which fall within this category. We hope to expand the scope of cases we can take on as Kids in Need of Defense grows.
As in all of MiCLU’s work the project supports children first and foremost. This means that referrals into the project can only be made where an application directly benefits a child, so there must be a child who needs to regularise their status. Applications for other family members may be included where it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
While the US Kids in Need of Defense project supports asylum-seeking children who are at a high risk of detention or removal, in the UK children in asylum proceedings still fortunately have access to legal aid.
Applications for leave to remain under paragraph 276ADE(1) of the Immigration rules, or ‘7 year applications,’ enable those under 18 who have been resident in the UK for 7 years to gain leave to remain on the basis of their close personal connections to the UK.
This form of application is not currently eligible for legal aid and is distinct from citizenship applications which can be made via CELC’s Kids in Need of Defense hub, Coram Children’s Legal Centre’s Children’s Pro Bono Legal Service, and PRCBC.
As such, this kind of application will form the central component of MiCLU’s work with Kids in Need of Defense UK while the organisation embeds expertise within our pro bono partners.
Further application types are intended to be added as the programme becomes more established, and as demand requires. At present demand for ‘7 year applications’ is high.
We prefer to receive referrals via frontline agencies with whom we have an existing relationship as this ensures that referrals are targeted, and that children and their families are able to access additional sources of support whilst they are waiting for their cases to be taken on.
If you work at a frontline agency which has different referral arrangements with MiCLU in relation to referrals to Kids in Need of Defense UK, please follow the arrangements particular to your own organisation.
Please ensure that you include your telephone contact details so that we can contact you in order to make further queries if necessary, or to notify you of an appointment if appropriate.
During times of high demand we will operate a waiting list system. Although we will prioritise cases in which prompt action is required, we cannot commit to taking on cases with urgent deadlines as our services depends on the availability of pro bono legal teams.
Please note that Kids in Need of Defense will not take on any cases for which legal aid is available or which we believe would be better served by an application for Exceptional Case Funding. We will advise you if we believe that this applies to your referral.