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Summary on on ntihelp onve Lawyers are trainedEu inro the law can n Cand ea p ren andchildren and young people d il h c r Rights your rights and o f e umanprotect H id u g A d nglan sort out difficulties. young people in E If a local council is going to court to try and remove a child from its parents, the child must always have a lawyer. If a child or young person is arrested by the police and interviewed at the police station, they will usually have a lawyer. There are many other situations where it would be helpful for a child or young person to get advice from a lawyer, and help to sort out problems. Children and young people can instruct lawyers themselves, depending on your understanding and how complicated the problem is. Children and young people rarely have to pay for a lawyer if a court is involved. This guide covers: • What do lawyers do? • What can I do if I have a problem? • When would I need to talk to a lawyer and how could they help? • Can I talk to the lawyer on my own? • Do I have to pay the lawyer? • What if I am not happy with my lawyer? • How do I find a lawyer and get help?
What do lawyers do? Lawyers are people who have had specialist training about the law. It is their job to explain to people what the law says, and to help you solve problems and protect your rights. They should give you information in a way you understand and always treat you with respect.
Lawyers have a duty of confidentiality to the people they work for. This means they should fully respect your privacy and not share information against your wishes. There are lots of different kinds of lawyers. Some lawyers only work with children and young people.
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When would I need to talk to a lawyer and how could they help? If a problem is quite difficult, it can really help to go to a lawyer. A lawyer should be able to tell you whether your rights have been broken. The lawyer can also tell you what you can do about it, and help you take action.
Using a lawyer to protect your righ ts: exam ple 2
se his Lawyers helped a 17 year-old to complain to the UK courts becau them told he when d local council had not given him the support he neede he was homeless. him to the His mother had told him he had to leave home. The council sent services. housing department instead of giving him support from children’s n and The House of Lords* agreed that the boy’s rights had been broke young said that children’s services must support homeless children and d of instea them, people and give them somewhere to live that is right for sending them to housing departments. il in the The Government then had to send guidance to every local counc country to make sure they follow the law. ed by the *This used to be the highest court in England; it has now been replac Supreme Court.
Can I talk to the lawyer on my own? Do I have to pay the lawyer? Children may need an adult to help them work with a lawyer. This depends on whether you need some help understanding what is happening and the choices you have. If the lawyer thinks you will be able to understand everything without help from another adult, he or she should see you on your own if that is what you want (you can take a friend). Parents usually help children and young people make contact with and work with lawyers. But sometimes children and young people need help from a professional outside their family, called a guardian. Guardians are often involved when a child or young person needs a lawyer because a court is making decisions about who they should live with, or whether or not they should go into care.
Children who become involved in a case going to court are nearly always entitled to legal aid, which means you do not have to pay for a lawyer. The lawyer should explain this at the beginning.
What if I am not happy with my lawyer? If you are not happy with your lawyer, you should talk to him or her about it. If you are still not happy, you can make a complaint. You can also change your lawyer. You can find out more about what to expect from lawyers, and how to complain, here: http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/consumers.page
Using a lawyer to protect your righ ts: exam ple 3
Two children and an adult got help from lawyers to complain about the police. They had been stopped and searched by the police while n at a protest in Kent about protecting the environment. The childre were were told that they were being searched for items because they They ience. exper going to the protest. They were frightened by the complained to the UK courts, but before the case finished the police agreed agreed they had broken the children’s rights. A settlement was and each child received compensation of £1,125 and a personal apology from the police. A letter was also sent to every UK police and force explaining why the stop and searches were against the law what should be done differently in future.
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Different lawyers know about different parts of the law. For example –
• Education lawyers can help people who are having difficulties at school or college
• Criminal lawyers know about the law on crime, and can help if you have been arrested by the police
• Public lawyers know how to challenge decisions made by people and organisations that run public services – like the Government, local councils, state schools, hospitals, children’s homes and prisons
• Children Panel lawyers know about family law. They can help when there are difficulties in your family – for example when parents split up and cannot agree on where a child will live, or when a child is living in care or might be adopted. They can give you advice and help if you want to have contact with family members (including brothers and sisters) but this is difficult because you or your siblings are in care
• Human rights and discrimination lawyers can help when your rights under human rights or equality laws have been broken. However, human rights and equality rights are important in all kinds of cases, so all lawyers should know about these.
What can I do if I have a problem? If something has happened to you which you feel is unfair, or which is making your life difficult, this can sometimes mean your rights have been broken. There is probably someone you know who can help you work out whether your rights are being broken, and what you can do about it. It usually helps to talk to someone – like your mum or dad, another person in your family, a teacher, or someone else that you trust and who may be able to help you. Sometimes it helps just to talk things over with a friend. There are also places you can call in private to talk through your difficulties (see over the page). If you are unhappy about something that is happening somewhere outside your home, like in your school or college, it is usually best to tell someone who works there about the problem, and ask them who is in charge and how you can sort out the problem. This may involve making an official complaint. Sometimes there are time limits which means you must make your complaint fairly quickly (though there are often ways round this). If you have a problem at home and you cannot talk to your parents or another family member about it, you may find it helpful to talk to someone outside your family like a friend or a teacher or social worker. Social workers work for local councils and its their job to make sure children are protected from harm and their rights protected. You will find the telephone number of your local children’s services (where social workers work) in the phone book, or you can search online for ‘children’s services’, adding the area you live in the search. You could also try contacting one of the organisations listed at the end of this guide.
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Us ing a law ye r to protec t yo ur right s: exam ple 1
A 15 year-old boy who has aut ism, and his mother who has health problems , got help from lawyers to complain to the UK courts about Islington Council in London . They were not getting the disabi lity services they thought they were entitled to. This was because the Counc il had changed its rules about who cou ld get disability services. The Court said the Council’s rule s broke the boy’s rights under UK law on decisionmaking and disability. This me ant that Islington Council had to change its rules. Every other local council also had to check whether their rules follow ed the law. The Council for Disabled Ch ildren, a charity that helped with the cas e, said it would now be easier for familie s to get disability services.
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Ho w do I fin d a law ye r an d ge t he lp? ice Telephone and email legal adv ts and equality For advice about your human righ advice service – law, contact the You’ve got the Right except from a Telephone 0800 32 88 759 (no charge first) 3.30pm – mobile; Textphone users dial 18001 and Thursdays; 5.30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays email – email@example.com mmission’s Equality and Human Rights Co 5 604 6610 helpline (England) – Telephone 084 every (textphone 0845 604 6620) 8am to 6pm rights.com weekday; email: info@equalityhuman law, you can For free telephone advice about the 08088 020 008 contact the Children’s Legal Centre young people: or look at its website for children and www.lawstuff.org.uk you Finding a lawyer who can act for , contact To find a lawyer who can act for you 4345 (freephone) Community Legal Advice 0845 345 unitylegaladvice. or look on its website: www.comm they should be org.uk If you explain your problem you need. able to tell you what kind of lawyer bsite tells you The Law Centres Federation we Law centres where your nearest law centre is. ge of subjects, give free legal advice on a wide ran rights, including benefits advice, disability employment immigration and asylum, housing, s of rights, community care, and all form tre visit: discrimination. To find your local cen tail/find/ www.lawcentres.org.uk/lawcentres/de
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Ot he r pe op le wh o ca n he lp ChildLine thing that is You can contact ChildLine about any 11 (freephone) or worrying you at any time on 0800 11 ges/Home.aspx online: http://www.childline.org.uk/Pa ocates Children’s rights officers and adv tes help Children’s rights officers and advoca t out sor e car children and young people in details of problems related to their rights. For ldren’s Rights advocates in your area, contact Chi Officers and Advocates (CROA): unty http://www.croa.org.uk/membersbyco Tel: 01773 820100 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Children’s Rights Director home, you can If you are a child living away from Children’s get free advice from the Office of the ghts4me.org; Rights Director for England (www.ri freephone 0800 528 0731).
by the Equality You’ve got the Right is funded and Human Rights Commission
94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF T: 020 7278 8222 W: www.crae.org.uk