Duty to report change of circumstances: applicants, solicitors, and opponents

In terms of Regulation 23(1), an applicant or assisted person has a duty to tell us of any change in their circumstances, financial or otherwise.  While, clearly, they must tell us about a change in their financial circumstances – such as a rise in salary or losing their job – it may not be their financial circumstances alone that have been, or should be, taken into account.

If it is a case where a spouse’s or cohabitee’s means must also be taken into account, any change in their means must be reported to us.  Also, the financial circumstances of others may be relevant.  For example, a member of the household may get a job and be able to share accommodation costs or living expenses, or the applicant may be contributing towards the support of someone else and this is no longer justified because of a change in that person’s means.

If your client, during the computation period or otherwise, does not give us information we ask for to confirm our original assessment or to make a reassessment, we can suspend or withdraw the legal aid.  We can also recover from them all fees and outlays we have paid to their solicitor and counsel, less any amount paid in contributions.

Under regulation 23(2), where a solicitor or counsel acting for an applicant or assisted person has reason to believe the applicant or assisted person has not complied with this duty, the solicitor or counsel must draw this to our attention.

Under regulation 23(3), any opponent who has reason to believe there is any matter that might cause us to amend a determination under Regulation 28, suspend legal aid under regulation 29 or stop making legal aid available under regulations 30, 31 or 32, may draw this to our attention.

Changes of address should be reported as quickly as possible to avoid delays in communication.

Importance of reporting a change of address

Where we are considering an  application or where we have granted legal aid  we need to be told as quickly as possible of any changes of address so we can  update our records to avoid delays in the applicant or assisted person getting any correspondence.  This includes, where known, telling us about any changes to the opponents address.  A notification providing the new address details and if known, the date the change took place should be sent to us as soon as possible.

Importance of reporting a death

Where an applicant or an assisted person dies you should inform us as soon as possible so we can update our records to prevent any us sending any correspondence to the deceased which could upset family members.

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