Reports show importance of using law for social change

SLF grantee Just for Kids Law's musing on using strategic litigation to bring about social change:

Bringing about social change is hard work and there are always many barriers, but there are also many methods to bringing about change. The law, in its many guises, is a tool for social change that is not always used by civil society organisations.

The 'law' can mean many things; from drafting legislation, proper implementation of existing legislation to litigating in courts. Some organisations may be wary of going to court, but when used carefully litigation can play a key role in helping achieve their aims.

To get more NGOs in this country to consider litigation as a tool for change, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Paul Hamlyn Foundation commissioned separate reports evaluating two instances where litigation was used successfully by NGOs which brought about significant change. Both projects were funded by the Strategic Legal Fund.

The first report prepared by IVAR focuses on strategic litigation by Detention Action, a small, non-legal NGO. Detention Action took legal action over the Detained Fast Track (DFT), a process where asylum seekers were routinely detained in high security centres while waiting for their claims to be decided. Detention Action and its legal team brought a series of challenges that took several years, culminating in the Supreme Court upholding a Court of Appeal decision that the DFT was 'systematically unfair'.

The second report prepared by Dr Vanhala of UCL looked at Just for Kids Law's intervention in R v Tigere in the Supreme Court. The case was about the denial of student loans to lawfully resident young people who were not British citizens.

We hope that these reports are a useful starting point for NGOs and lawyers in the UK who are considering becoming involved in using the law to bring about social change.


If you have any queries about the Strategic Legal Fund, please contact or call 0207 251 8383.

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