Legal aid scope changes from 15 May 2020

From 15 May 2020, the existing Civil Legal Aid Procedure Regulations 2012 will be amended to enable more people to receive advice, representation and mediation funded under legal aid.

Domestic abuse

The supporting documents acceptable as evidence of domestic abuse are extended as follows:

Schedule 1 (14) “A letter from an independent domestic violence advisor confirming that they are providing or have provided support to A.”

Schedule 1 (15) “A letter from an independent sexual violence advisor confirming that they are providing or have provided support to A relating to sexual violence by B.”

Schedule 1(17)
(1) A letter from an organisation providing domestic violence support services.
(2) The letter must confirm that it –
(a)   is situated in the United Kingdom [formerly restricted to England and Wales];
(b)   that the organisation has been operating for an uninterrupted period of six months or more; and
(c)   provided A with support in relation to A’s needs as a victim, or person at risk, of domestic violence
(3) The letter must contain –
(a)   a statement to the effect that, in the reasonable professional judgement of the author the letter, A is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence;
(b)   a description of specific matters relied upon to support that judgement;
(c)   a description of the support provided to A; and
(d)   a statement of the reasons why A needed that support.

Note that the LAA removed the requirement for such letters to be on letterhead during the COVID-19 Pandemic on 9 April.

Schedule 1 (20) “A letter from the Secretary of State for the Home Department confirming that A has been granted leave to remain in the United Kingdom as a victim of domestic violence [formerly under Paragraph 289B of the Immigration Rules].”

Mediation

The applicant for Family Mediation no longer has to attend the mediator’s premises in person if the mediator decides it is not necessary.

Alternatively, if the applicant cannot attend in person for a good reason, they can authorise someone else to attend on their behalf. The application form still needs to be completed and documentary evidence of financial eligibility must still be provided. See the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 SI 439, reg 7 for more information.

Education, Discrimination, and Owner occupiers facing loss of their home

The mandatory route to legal aid through the Civil Legal Aid telephone service will no longer apply from 15 May 2020. Members of the public will be able to use the telephone service if they wish; but they will be free to use a local provider with a contract if they would prefer to do so.

Local providers with a Housing contract will be able to advise/represent owner occupiers facing loss of their home due to default on secured loans falling into the Debt category.

All Housing contracts include a notional four Legal Help matter starts for Debt matters. These can be increased to six by the contract holding organisation, after they have notified their Contract Manager. If they need more matter starts, they can apply for them (Standard Civil Contract Specification paras 1.21–1.24).

Education Local providers with a contract in this category will be able to advise/represent in special educational needs cases.

Local providers with Discrimination contracts will be able to advise on discrimination cases, even where they would normally be out of scope, e.g. employment.

Inquests Legal help for inquests can be backdated where the Director of Legal Aid disapplies financial eligibility limits in relation to the application.

Vicky Ling
24 April 2020

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Filed under COVID-19, discrimination, domestic violence, Family, Housing, news

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