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The government’s decision on Refugee and Migrant Justice is reminiscent of the Thatcher years

David Cameron spent a lot of time in opposition playing down comparisons between his politics and those of the Thatcher government. When he came into power in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, it seemed their influence might strengthen the government’s credentials on social justice.

Now, a few weeks into the new regime, a junior minister in the Ministry of Justice, Jonathan Djanogly, has confirmed the petty and misguided decision to force Refugee and Migrant Justice into administration by refusing to help it through £1.8m cash crisis caused largely by the ministry’s own delays in paying legal aid fees owed to the charity. The decision comes as we hear that legal aid to senior counsel in the Bloody Sunday inquiry totalled £100m.

Ken Clarke, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has not seen fit to intervene, despite his credentials as a fair and sensible poltician, and there has been no audible protest from the government’s big society advocates, despite their rhetoric about the beneficial role of charities in society. Not a word, either, from the Liberal Democrats.

So what is going on? RMJ is widely acknowledged to have unrivalled knowledge of asylum law and to be cheaper and better that the alternatives. Senior members of the judiciary are understood to have intervened behind the scenes on its behalf. Without RMJ there is likely to be more injustice and suffering for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. There is no reasoned case for refusing the help it needs to survive. But all this has fallen on deaf ears.

This sends a crude and simple message: “ We are the masters now, and we don’t care.” We got used to that kind of thing in the Thatcher years. Is this a sign of more to come?


  • Tim

    It’s nice to read a ‘good conscience’ piece. The Tories never learn. They prefer a brash Victorian ‘common sense’ approach that is bereft of sense. I fear that they will undo a lot of the progress that has taken place and replace it with backward schemes that fit in with their prejudices and over-simplistic judgemental nonsense.

  • Robbie Spence

    I’m glad to see that Caroline Lucas, Green MP, has tabled an early day motion calling for action to save RMJ.

  • Charlie Smith

    Your article does rather state the bleeding obvious – shock horror Tories dont like refugees or immigrants or spending money on poor people. It is naive in the extreme to think that the tories are changed in their outlook. The current generation were formed in the Thatcher years – the current government with their Lib Dem acolytes do not care about people.

  • Carl Allen

    Perhaps but maybe not KFC has lowered the entry bar but then why not paid placements?

  • Barnardo’s Children’s Charity

    Barnardo’s has partnered with KFC for the very reason Lucy Sweetman outlines in her article: the restaurant chain is an industry leader in training and development, and has a clear affinity with young people (over 70% of their restaurant workforce are under the age of 25).

    Having been named Britain’s Top Employer 2012 and voted a Great Place to Work for three years running, KFC has now committed to working with Barnardo’s to create individually tailored placements for vulnerable young people facing barriers to work. Young people from Barnardo’s who face a range of challenges and may never have entered a work environment before, have the opportunity to prepare for and participate in a restarant placement, where they will learn key transferrable skills, such as timekeeping, customer service, presentation and teamwork.

    Barnardo’s believes that being healthy is an important part of a child or young person’s well being, but so is having opportunities to learn and to work. KFC is a responsible business, which offers a wide range foods and has made major nutritional improvements over the last few years. The average customer visits KFC only every six weeks for an occasional treat and all their food can all be eaten as part of a balanced diet.

    Barnardo’s partnership with KFC is just one example of how the children’s charity works to help vulnerable young people find opportunities in a wide range of industries. Depending on ability, desire and need, Barnardo’s might help a disadvantaged young person get experience in hairdressing or mobile mechanics and now, we can offer experience in a KFC restaurant. We are calling on businesses and organisations of all kinds to partner up with the voluntary sector in this way, to ensure that young people are given the chance to gain valuable experience in the workplace, while receiving the support that they need.

    KFC and Barnardo’s are taking the initiative to open doors to the UK’s most vulnerable young people, in order to give them a fighting chance of achieving their potential, regardless of their background.

    Stephen Oversby, Barnardo’s Director of Employment, Training and Skills

    James Watts, KFC’s UK & Ireland Vice President of Human Resources