The reforms tighten eligibility, reducing the number of people who can get civil legal aid and increasing the amount they have to pay towards their case.
What’s in the bill?
The bill does not detail the eligibility criteria for the new scheme; that will have to await the regulations published in due course. Clause 20 enables regulations to be made, and requires that services should not be given unless the client qualifies financially (provision is made for exceptions). Clause 21 enables the assessing authority to make enquiries of other government departments. Clause 22 empowers the collection of contributions.
What’s in the consultation response?
The following changes to financial eligibility have been announced:
- Clients on passporting benefits will now have to have their capital assessed and be subject to the normal capital limits and contributions;
- Extending the £100,000 cap on the subject matter of the dispute disregard to all areas of law and levels of service;
- Increasing contributions from income.
- Requiring all clients with capital of over £1000 to pay an up-front contribution of £100;
- Abolishing the equity and pensioner disregards for capital;
- Removing the mortgage disregard but imposing an overall gross capital limit;
- Implementing a discretionary waiver from the above.