We still require evidence of applicants’ financial circumstances during the Covid-19 restrictions.
We’ve worked with applicants to find different methods to send us information about their financial circumstances and they’ve responded positively to our requests.
To help you and your clients, this update brings together our experience of:
We hope that this will also help you with ideas for the steps that can be taken when you grant A&A and ABWOR.
Our key message is to encourage applicants to make contact with us, either by phone or email to discuss their personal circumstances. We can talk through what would be best for them.
The majority of people have had no difficulty in obtaining the information which we are seeking.
We understand that these are not normal times and getting access to information is not always straightforward, especially if someone is self-isolating.
We are taking a flexible approach to verification of income and outgoings.
We’ve noticed a big change in how people are sending us information.
Applicants are downloading documents and sending them by email. Alternatively, they are taking photographs of documents and emailing them. We can accept documents in any format.
Applicants can send us documents directly using the following email addresses we’ve set up:
Alternatively, they can email them to you and you can upload them to Legal Aid Online.
It is important to remember that, depending on the aid type, the majority of applicants receive a passported benefit. Therefore, verification of income can be confirmed by the DWP link.
We’ve noticed that many applicants are using online banking. This means that 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 know 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’ll discuss with them 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.
If the applicant does not have access to online banking and is unable to provide the last three months’ consecutive bank statements, but they have some slightly older ones at home, we can accept these. The applicant will need to declare that their income and outgoings are generally still the same.
We can accept any other documentation they may have at home showing outgoings, such as mortgage approval letters, rent agreements etc.
If they cannot download and email these, they can take a photo on their mobile phone and attach it to an email and send it that way.
If the applicant doesn’t have three recent payslips, but has older ones at home we can accept these. The applicant will need to declare that their salary has more or less remained the same.
As an alternative, if we can see their salary from their bank statement then we will use that.
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.
We can grant special urgency cover to allow you to do work needed before we can take a decision for legal aid applications where urgent work needs to be carried out.
We can also extend the length of any continuation needed to allow information to be provided.
This is working particularly well for children’s legal aid.