Advice and rights

We campaign for access to legal advice and the means to understand and stand up for rights to be recognised as a crucial part of local services for young people.

We know that access to advice services and legal support is vital for many young people on their journey to adulthood – but this support is often out of reach. Cuts to legal aid have reduced young people’s already limited access to legal advice, meaning that many face problems alone. This leads to more issues further down the line, as social and economic problems resulting from a lack of access to advice services can cause or exacerbate mental health and other issues.

As the recognised national body for youth advice services, Youth Access acts as a focal point for organisations and government departments interested in young people’s access to advice on rights-based issues, such as housing, homelessness, welfare benefits, debt and employment. We have built up a comprehensive evidence-base relating to young people’s needs for advice, their advice-seeking behaviour and the impact of advice, as well as publishing a number of briefings and resources promoting good practice in youth advice work.

Our analysis of previously unpublished government data reveals the current generation of young people to have been largely excluded from legal aid following cuts, with young people and vulnerable groups disproportionately impacted by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Our research has also shown that “everyday” social welfare legal problems are key determinants of young people’s mental health.

Our work to change government policy that will improve young people’s access to advice includes co-ordinating JustRights, a coalition of charities campaigning for fair access to advice, advocacy and legal representation for children and young people. The coalition supported young people to create a manifesto for what young people’s access to advice services should look like.

As well as access to legal advice, young people need access to education about their rights so they can understand and stand up for them on a daily basis. That is why we have led the way in public legal education (PLE) for young people through the Make Our Rights Reality programme, which provided training to young people in community settings to help them understand their rights and how to make sure they are met. The training resources created for the programme are freely available for organisations that want to offer their own PLE training for young people.