Legal Aid Scheme

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 21st October 2021.

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Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans his Department has to extend access to legal aid.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice)

In the 2019 Legal Support Action Plan, we announced a comprehensive review of the legal aid means test. The review is assessing the effectiveness with which the means test protects access to justice, by bringing together data, evidence and expertise from across government, and engaging with legal practitioners, representative organisations and third sector bodies. A central issue is the income and capital thresholds, but we are also reviewing other areas, such as the passporting provisions for people receiving certain benefits and the level of contributions individuals are required to pay towards their legal costs. We hope to publish the review alongside a public consultation shortly.

We have also recently made changes to ensure that legal aid remains accessible to those who need it. In May 2020, we removed the mandatory element of the Civil Legal Advice telephone gateway. In December 2020, we removed the £100,000 cap on the amount of mortgage debt which can be considered in the civil means test, which means an individual’s whole mortgage debt is now deducted from their property’s value when assessing eligibility for civil legal aid. This legislation also disregarded some compensation and ex-gratia payments for the purposes of assessing legal aid eligibility.

In September 2021, we announced that we will remove the legal aid means test for applicants for Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) in relation to legal representation at inquests. This change will extend access to legal aid for the bereaved and simplify the ECF process.

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