Citizens Advice: Changes to legal aid
Date: 27 March 2013
Civil legal aid helps to pay for the costs of getting legal advice if you’re on a low income. However, the government has made large cuts to the civil legal aid budget. This means from 1 April you’ll no longer be able to get civil legal aid for many types of problems that might affect your everyday life. These include:
Welfare benefit appeals
You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you make an appeal against a decision on welfare benefits unless you’re making an appeal to the Upper Tribunal or higher courts.
You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with your debts unless a creditor is making you bankrupt or taking court action to evict you from your home
You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with housing problems unless:
- there’s serious disrepair in your home
- you’re homeless
- you’re being evicted from your home
- the council is taking action against you because of anti-social behaviour.
You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an employment dispute or go to an employment tribunal unless it’s a discrimination case.
Private family law
You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with private family law problems unless you're a victim or are at risk of domestic violence or there has been or is a risk of child abuse These include:
- dissolution of civil partnership
- financial disputes
- property disputes
- disputes over children.
If you’re an asylum seeker, you won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with asylum support unless you have applied for both housing and financial support.
You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an immigration application unless you:
- have been detained
- make an application under the domestic violence rules
- make an application because you’re a victim of human trafficking.
You won’t get legal aid to help with education problems unless the child or young adult has Special Educational Needs.
Consumer and general contract law
You won’t get legal aid for any action you want to take for consumer problems or problems you have with general contracts.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority cases
You won’t get legal aid to help with the costs of trying to get compensation because you’ve suffered a criminal injury.
Clinical negligence cases
You won’t get legal aid for most clinical negligence problems.
What will you still be able to get legal aid for
You’ll still be able to get legal aid for the following problems:
- care proceedings
- family mediation
- asylum applications
- mental health proceedings
- community care cases
Civil Legal Advice helpline
The Civil Legal Advice national helpline on 0845 345 4345 provides specialist legal advice for people who are eligible for civil legal aid.
The service offers advice in six areas of law:
- welfare benefits appeals.
The helpline only offers advice on problems for which you can still get legal aid.
Legal aid for debt, discrimination and Special Educational Needs problems
If you need to apply for legal aid for a debt, discrimination or Special Educational Needs problem, you must apply through the telephone gateway service run by Civil Legal Advice on 0845 345 4345.
Financial eligibility for civil legal aid
There are also changes to who will qualify for civil legal aid, based on the amount of income and capital you have.
If you receive a passporting benefit, your capital will now be assessed to see if you’re eligible to get civil legal aid. Passporting benefits include:
- Income Support
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
- Universal Credit.
There are also increases in the amount of contributions you’ll have to pay towards the cost of civil legal aid.
- Civil Legal Advice at www.gov.uk
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