Covid-19: How payment to self-employed people during emergency affects eligibility for legal aid

The Scottish and 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.

Scottish Government Business Support Scheme

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.

UK Government Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

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.

How to treat the SEISS payment in financial eligibility assessments

  • To assess eligibility for legal assistance, these payments will not be treated as capital for any aid type.
  • The payments will be treated as income. It will be included in the calculation of net profit and the applicant’s drawings. It is the drawings figure which will be used to assess a self-employed applicant’s disposable income.
  • For all aid types, the income should be apportioned over the three month period the SEISS grant is intended to cover.
  • As with all income, proof of payment should be provided.

For A&A, to calculate the income in the previous 7 days, you should divide the payment by 12 weeks to calculate the weekly payment.

For Civil legal aid, we will confirm that they will apply for the second grant which is available in August. We can therefore make an assessment of their projected 12 month income using the period April – August. A conditional grant can be made and the case scheduled for a review after August.

For Criminal legal aid, where we apply the Undue Hardship test (Summary, Solemn and Criminal Appeals where this is needed), 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.

For Children’s legal aid – the same calculation as Criminal legal aid: as the initial number of weeks the payment is to cover is 12, you should divide the amount by 12 to represent the weekly drawings.

More information

If you have any queries on the update, please contact: Kim Blance, Senior Specialist –

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