Charity that gives free legal services to children in immigration court launches in UK

A US-based charity that provides free lawyers to children in immigration courts has branched out into the UK.

Kids in Need of Defense, which was founded by Microsoft President Brad Smith and actress Angelina Jolie, will use professional lawyers in this country to give legal advice and representation to tens of thousands of youngsters facing residency issues and subsequent exploitation, abuse, homelessness and deportation.

The organisation helps undocumented children, such as those who are British but unable to prove it or have lived in this country without any immigration status, through no fault of their own. Kids in Need of Defense UK helps these individuals with applications to the Home Office regarding citizenship or leave to remain in the UK.

Brad Smith, Microsoft President, and Wendy Young, President of Kids in Need of Defense

Brad Smith, Microsoft President, and Wendy Young, President of Kids in Need of Defense

“Pro Bono attorneys can be a lifeline to the tens of thousands of vulnerable children who must navigate the immigration courts alone,” said Smith, who is also the chair of Kids in Need of Defense. “What we do is help children find his or her voice, so their story can be told and can be heard. We started by talking to one firm, one partner, and now in the US we work with more than 400 law firms, companies and law schools in 10 different cities. We’ve trained over 15,000 lawyers, and they went on to help someone in their moment of need and made a difference in somebody’s life. Here in the UK, you have an opportunity to not just build on that but help create a movement for Pro Bono work.”

Kids in Need of Defense UK will be supported by the US operation and three not-for-profit organisations based in this country: Central England Law Centre, Coram Children’s Legal Centre and Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit at Islington Law Centre. All specialise in immigration and asylum law.

Initial funding will be provided by Microsoft, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy.

“With recent cuts to legal aid that have left thousands of undocumented children in the UK without access to a lawyer, we are thrilled to expand our services at Kids in Need of Defense to help youth struggling without representation within the UK legal system,” said Wendy Young, President of Kids in Need of Defense US.

Since it was founded in 2008, Kids in Need of Defense has trained more than 15,000 attorneys and been referred more than 14,000 unaccompanied children.

Law firms and businesses willing to provide lawyers who will give their time, pro bono, to children and young people in need of immigration and nationality legal advice and representation should contact Annie Cooper – – or Katie Fennell –