Shauneen Lambe and Aika Stephenson established Just for Kids Law in 2007. Shauneen, a barrister and an attorney, had previously acted for death row defendants in the US, and Aika, a solicitor, had become a lawyer after working with the youth offending team and remand prisoners at Feltham Young Offenders Institution.
Shauneen and Aika both entered youth justice because they wanted to help young people but in their work with vulnerable children, they often found that their young clients’ needs extended beyond good criminal representation. They became frustrated at how little they could do, as lawyers, to make a lasting difference to these young lives. Too often they would leave a young person at the court door, knowing they would be going back to face the same problems that made them offend in the first place, such as mental illness, exclusion from school, immigration status difficulties, bleak job prospects, no proper home, and problems accessing welfare benefits.
Shauneen and Aika realised that, to be able to turn their lives around, these young people needed more than specialist lawyers who could defend their interests in court. They needed equally expert and dedicated people to advocate for them in all aspects of their lives; someone who could help them understand and deal with their other problems – at home, at school, with their local authority, and elsewhere.
And so the idea was born of creating an organisation where specialist lawyers would work alongside expert ‘youth advocates’; to offer one-to-one, all-round, wide-ranging support, tailored to each individual child or young person’s needs, whenever and wherever they needed it.
We call this holistic support – read more in ‘what we do’.
Just for Kids Law today
A decade on, Just for Kids Law works across 31 London boroughs, employs more than 35 staff, and is a well-established and respected force in the UK legal/youth sector.
It has evolved into a lean, highly effective organisation, committed to improving the lives of children and enabling them to reach their potential, whether with one-to-one support or more strategically by pressing for changes in policy or legislation.
The charity has won multiple awards, litigated and run campaigns which have led to changes in the national law, and are recognised as an expert in youth justice and children’s rights. And thanks to its campaigning, there is now broader understanding of children’s needs among lawyers and others working in the criminal justice system.
Founders Shauneen and Aika continue to lead Just for Kids Law.
2012 – The Opportunities and Ambassador programmes were launched to help young people who had been through crisis to find education, training or employment. The Ambassadors Programme also gives young clients a voice in Just for Kids Law’s governance and strategic direction and in wider society by, for example, equipping them to respond to consultation papers, speak directly to policymakers and address conferences.
2013 The Young Parents programme was launched to give tailored advocacy support to help individuals navigate the social care system.
2014 – Let us Learn was created as part of Just for Kids Law working with students with unstable migration status to campaign for their equal access to higher education.
2015 Youth Justice Legal Centre (YJLC) was established to provide a resource to help and advise young people and their families and professionals about the youth justice system. YJLC, which is run by specialist youth justice lawyers, also provides comprehensive training for professionals working in the complex youth justice field.
2015 – Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) became part of Just for Kids Law to enhance our research, policy and lobbying work. CRAE is one of the most extensive children’s rights coalitions in the world, with more than 100 members.
2016 – Advocacy Year was launched to extend our advocacy services to a greater number of young people. A graduate training scheme which for people considering a career in law who are trained and supervised to act as community advocates for 12 months. The scheme is loosely based on other graduate training schemes such as Teach First.