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Frequently Asked Questions by Providers: Civil Legal Assistance

We have prepared some FAQs below to cover situations which solicitors commonly request information about.

Commonly used legal aid terms and words.

Please refer to the Civil legal aid handbook for full details on the civil legal aid process.

Why is it essential that I ensure the opponent’s address is correct when I am submitting an application for legal aid?

Your firm is a data controller within the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998. You are obliged to take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of any personal data which you provide to us.

It is therefore important that you carefully check any information which is provided to us with a legal aid application to ensure that it is accurate to the best of your knowledge, as if we are given incorrect details this will sometimes result in a data breach which could have serious implications for your firm.


What if I don’t know the opponent’s address?

You should give some information about the efforts made to find the opponent’s address, and undertake to let us have this as soon as you know it. It is not enough to simply say “address unknown” and give no details.

If the identity of the opponent’s solicitor is known, then his or her details can be provided.


What should I do if I do not want the application to be intimated to the opponent?

In some circumstances, for example, domestic abuse where the applicant fears detection by the opponent – you may apply for us to waive the requirement for intimation.

This can be done by noting “not to be intimated” in the first line of the opponents address and thereafter providing an explanation to SLAB in in the free text box “reasons why there are no supporting documents” within the civ sol form.


Where can I find information about applying for civil legal aid?

You can access the Civil Legal Assistance Handbook, and all our recent updates via the links on our website.


If I need an interpreter to take instructions, or I need to have documents translated do I need sanction, and how much will you pay for this?

If a grant of legal aid is in place then sanction is not required unless you consider that the work you need to undertake falls within the scope of unusual work, or if the cost of the work exceeds £2000, and so falls within the scope of unusually large expenditure.

Details of the rates payable are set out in our mailshot of 28 June 2013 which can be accessed on this website.


How can I find out what cost limit attaches to my case?

When we make a decision to grant legal aid then we will let you have details of the cost limit for the case. Cost limits only apply to cases where the application for civil legal aid was received on or after 21 March 2013.

A table setting out the standard case cost limits can be found in the Civil Legal Assistance Handbook at Part IV chapter 6A.9. You can find out how to apply for a case cost uplift in the Handbook at Part IV chapter 6A.6.


I want to apply for legal aid for a minute to vary an order. Do I need a fresh grant of legal aid or can I use the grant for the initial proceedings?

A minute to vary a final order is regarded as distinct proceedings for legal aid purposes. A separate application is needed for each minute, and a separate application is required for opposition to each minute.

We are aware that the court will occasionally adopt unusual procedure in relation to minutes to vary, such as allowing counterclaims to be received.

If you are involved in a case in which the court has departed from the usual practice then you should contact the Civil Merits Team [on 0131 226 7061 and then use shortcut number 1223] for advice on how to proceed.


I need legal aid for a Minute for Failure to obtemper – how do I get cover?

A minute for failure to obtemper an order of the court is regarded as distinct proceedings for legal aid purposes, and this applies whether the failure is in relation to an interim or a final order.

A separate application is needed if you are wishing to proceed with a minute for failure to obtemper, or to oppose such a minute.


Can I get funding for mediation under a grant of legal aid?

Yes, a sanction template is available for family mediation. We will meet the cost of family mediation subject to a limit of £86 per hour for the mediator’s fee.

This means that we will pay £43 per applicant towards the cost of mediation in a case involving two parties, as we would expect each party to meet their share of the cost.

We can also consider a request for sanction for a mediator in a non family case. You should submit a sanction request for unusual work, and provide a breakdown of the costs which would be incurred.


How do I go about getting funding for a child welfare report?

This will depend upon the circumstances of the case. Please use our interactive flowchart to find out how you can secure funding.


Can I obtain funding to meet the cost of supervised or supported contact, and if so how do I go about getting this?

It will depend upon the circumstances of the case. The cost of paid for supervised contact may be allowed under advice and assistance where we are satisfied that it may help to resolve a dispute over contact without the need for litigation. You should ask us for funding to cover the cost of supervised and/or supported contact under advice and assistance where appropriate to help resolve a dispute.

We have agreed that costs incurred in relation to supported contact sessions in family disputes may be met under a grant of civil legal aid where:

  • the court has ordered that the supported contact take place;
  • the costs to be incurred are to be met by a party in receipt of civil legal aid;
  • the court is to be provided with information about the supported contact sessions; and
  • supported contact is taking place to assist the court in reaching a final decision on any contact related issues.

It is not necessary for a sanction application to be submitted in respect of supported contact. All costs incurred will however be subject to scrutiny by the Accounts Department once the account is lodged.

The arrangements for supervised contact are different. Prior sanction is still required for any costs to be incurred in relation to supervised contact.

Guidance on supervised contact is given in Part IV, Chapter 7, paragraph 52 of the Civil Legal Assistance Handbook .


I want to involve counsel. How do I get cover?

If you have a grant of civil legal aid for proceedings in the Court of Session then the employment of one junior counsel is automatic.

You will need sanction if you want to instruct two juniors, senior and junior or senior counsel alone. In proceedings in the sheriff court, sanction for counsel is always needed whether you want senior counsel or junior counsel to be involved.

If legal aid is not yet in place and you want counsel to carry out steps in proceedings under the special urgency provisions, then if the proceedings are in the Court of Session you may instruct one junior counsel to carry out work which we have approved e.g. prepare Answers, or oppose a motion for interim orders.

However, if you want to instruct senior counsel, senior and junior or two juniors to carry out the work approved under the special urgency provisions, prior sanction is needed.

Sanction will always be needed for counsel in the sheriff court prior to a grant of civil legal aid.

Please note that if we grant sanction for counsel prior to a grant of legal aid being in place, the sanction will be limited to the work carried out by counsel in terms of work approved under the special urgency provisions.

We cannot approve any future work prior to a grant of legal aid being in place.


I need to get a factual report from a GP or other treating doctor. Do I need sanction?

If the doctor is speaking about treatment given to the applicant then the doctor is a witness as to fact, as opposed to providing evidence in an expert capacity, so sanction is not required.

If an expert who has not been involved in the applicant’s treatment is instructed to provide a report to help you prepare the case, then this person is an expert, and the appropriate sanction should be sought.


When should I submit an unprompted stage report?

If there is any change to the applicant’s case or financial position which might affect our decision to grant legal aid you should report to us.

So far as the merits of the case are concerned, if there is any significant development in a case which you need to discuss with the applicant, then you should also be reporting to SLAB.

This may include things like receiving an unsupportive report, or having concerns about the way the applicant is conducting the case. It may also include more practical issues, such as, for example, there is an issue with the availability of a witness which might impact on costs, or case costs have exceeded your initial estimate.

However, this list is not exhaustive, and if in doubt you should submit a report. If you do not let us know about something which we think would have affected our decision to grant legal aid, then you are likely to have difficulties with your account.


How can the advice and assistance and legal aid payment arrangements help clients with communication and other support needs?

The legal aid fee arrangements can allow for additional payments which may be needed to cover the reasonable costs of additional communication support with clients, such as the use of language or BSL interpreters, from the time that legal aid is in place. Legal aid can also meet the cost of lengthier meeting times that clients might need, or travel by the solicitor where the client is unable to attend the solicitor’s office due to disability or ill heath, to help them access the services of a solicitor.

Prior authority is not normally needed to cover payments made to interpreters or other communication support professionals (e.g. palantypist), which are charged separately as outlays, although in advice and assistance and ABWOR cases, solicitors need to obtain appropriate increases in authorised expenditure first. This is also the same for any travel or lengthier meeting times with clients which may be required in advice and assistance, ABWOR and time and line legal aid cases.

The payment arrangements in summary criminal fixed payment cases mean that solicitors need to apply for exceptional case status where the assisted person would be deprived of the right to a fair trial in any case because of the amount of the fixed payments payable for the criminal legal assistance provided. If this status is granted by SLAB, the solicitor can charge for all work on a detailed basis and this would result in the solicitor being paid for any time necessarily spent with the client. One of the factors that we would take into consideration in determining whether a case is exceptional is "whether the assisted person, or any witnesses, may be unable to understand the proceedings because of age, inadequate knowledge of English, mental illness, other mental or physical disability or otherwise".


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