Your client will automatically qualify on income if they are in receipt of one of the following “passport benefits”:
We can check receipt of these benefits using the automatic DWP link. If the link is able to confirm receipt of a passport benefit, we will not require any other documentation in relation to the benefit claim.
If the link is unable to confirm that your client is in receipt of a passport benefit, we will require some form of proof of payment such as a recent copy bank statement or a recent copy award letter from the DWP.
If the passport benefit claim is in the name of the partner, the automatic DWP link can check this but we will require the partner’s:
If the link is unable to confirm the partner’s passport benefit claim, we will require some form of proof of payment such as a recent copy bank statement or a recent copy award letter from the DWP.
Some non-passport benefits are dis-regarded and thus, not included as income in our calculations. These include:
The automatic DWP link is not able to check for receipt of these benefit payments so proof of receipt of the benefit is required. This could be a recent copy bank statement or an award letter from the DWP.
We consider the following items as income:
Where your client lives with a spouse/partner, you do not need to declare their income if the spouse or partner has a contrary interest in the case.
A contrary interest in the proceedings is if the spouse/partner is:
You also do not need to declare the spouse/partner’s income if their net pay is less than the current upper income limit of £11,540 per annum or £222 per week.
We consider the following as outgoings:
For the outgoings, we will consider the full amount of the outgoings if the spouse or partner has weekly income below £222. Where the spouse or partner is in receipt of weekly income above £222, we will make an allowance for half of any declared outgoings.
Some clients receive a combination of state benefits and these can exceed the weekly disposable income threshold. If your client’s personal circumstances mean that they incur additional household expenses for themselves, you should tell us about these as we may take these into account.
Where your client receives a non-passported benefit as a result of the disability of a family member, this is disregarded from our assessment.
Where your client lives with a spouse/partner, any dependant person (adult other than partner) or child, a standard allowance is given for each dependant at the rates given in the current advice and assistance Keycard.
Your client’s disposable income is the figure remaining, after any allowances and outgoings have been deducted.
Remaining figure less than £222
If the remaining figure is less than the current weekly income limit £222, then your client qualifies on disposable income.
Remaining figure more than £222
If the figure exceeds £222, we look at the nature of the case involved before we can determine whether it would cause undue hardship to pay for their own legal costs.
In considering the undue hardship test and the case, we look at factors such as:
If any of these factors are present, your client may still be eligible for legal aid.
If your client has no income you must provide an explanation as to how they are currently financially supported. If your client has a bank account, a recent copy statement will be required to support their financial declaration.
Before we can make legal aid available, your client must provide proof of their income and outgoings. The easiest way to do this is to provide a recent copy bank statement. We can also accept a recent copy wage slip or a letter from an employer as proof of income.
If a client is self-employed, we can accept the most recent self-assessment tax return or a recent copy bank statement if this shows their weekly drawings. Alternatively, we can also accept a letter from their accountant confirming their weekly drawings.
The best way to provide proof of payment of outgoings is usually to provide a recent copy bank statement. However, if any of the outgoings do not appear on the bank statement alternative proof of payment is required.
If the client has more than one bank account, we will require a recent copy statement for all accounts.
For the period of the Covid-19 restrictions, where applicants may have difficulties in getting wage slips or bank statements from their bank, they can download their bank statements or screenshots and send them to us by email. We can also accept mini statements from the cash machine.
We are aware that not everyone has access to online banking and that banks are only dealing with priority matters by phone, and therefore it may not be possible for applicants to contact their banks for copies of statements. We will discuss with applicants what may be possible, including the options set out above. If there is no way of providing any verification, we’ll take the following approach:
If the applicant has provided verification in another application in the last six months, we can check this and use this as verification. The applicant will need to declare that there has been no change in their circumstances.
We can grant the application with a condition where we have taken all steps with the applicant and where there is no or insufficient verification.
The condition will be that the applicant provides financial verification to demonstrate their eligibility at the date of grant as soon as it becomes available to you/your client and in any event within the next three months if possible.
Failure to provide the verification could result in the end of the grant of legal aid, depending on the aid type.
The Scottish & UK Governments have offered financial support to self-employed people whose business is affected by Covid-19. This update describes how these will be treated for the purposes of assessing eligibility for legal aid.
This is a one-off grant of either £10,000 or £25,000 (linked to the non-domestic rates system) paid through local authorities.
To assess eligibility for legal assistance, this payment will be disregarded in all aid types.
This is the support put in place for the self-employed as they are ineligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Applicants will get a taxable grant which will be 80% of the average profits from the last three years, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months. It will be paid directly into an individual’s bank account, in one instalment, expected to be by June. A second grant can be claimed in August 2020. For the purpose of assessment of eligibility for Universal Credit, SEISS is treated as a receipt for the purposes of calculating the claimant’s self-employed earnings.
For Summary Criminal legal aid, where we apply the Undue Hardship test, we will treat the payments as income to allow us to calculate the applicant’s weekly self-employed earnings. In the application, you should enter the amount received, divided by 12, as weekly drawings.