Friday, 14 August 2015

On Kids Company

The sudden closure of the well-known charity Kids Company last week has been a major news story, and one about which everyone seemingly has an opinion.

It may be premature to make up one’s mind about Kids Company without full information, but one thing is for sure: yet another gap has opened up in the provision of services and assistance for vulnerable children. It may yet be shown that Kids Company was poorly managed or financially irresponsible, yet few would dispute that it provided services that assisted some of the most vulnerable among us: children at risk of homelessness, drug or alcohol addiction, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, truancy, and imprisonment, to name just a few risk factors for these children.

The loss of Kids Company should be seen as part of a broader picture of cuts to services affecting the most vulnerable among us, and particularly children. So what should be done?

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a law firm, we consider that a crucial step would be to restore legal aid that would assist children. This is relevant in many areas of law, including immigration, family law, social welfare, and housing law. In all of these areas, cases that historically would have been in scope for legal aid funding have been cut from scope, or the test for legal aid has become more stringent, excluding many who should be able to access it. To look at it from a prison law and criminal law perspective, many of these vulnerable children may be the children of prisoners, or at risk of imprisonment themselves.

In particular, the restoration of legal aid in the areas of prison law that have been cut from scope would certainly assist: for example, it used to be possible to get legal aid for prisoners in relation to categorisation, so that they could get moved to a lower security category; and for transfers, so that they could access relevant offending behaviour programmes and move to prisons which are easier for family members to visit. All of this assists in the rehabilitation of the prisoner and the maintenance of their ties to their family, supporting vulnerable children and prisoners alike.

The benefit of this is that the funding would be restored to organisations such as law firms which are properly regulated and audited, lessening the chance of severe financial mismanagement which is more of a risk in charities which are arguably not so closely regulated or held so firmly accountable for the use of their funds.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the firm or its partners.


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