Parents and relatives that have parental responsibility for children who are the subject of Care Proceedings are entitled to legal aid, enabling them to be represented free of charge whatever their financial circumstances.
Other relatives involved in Care Proceedings and all parties involved in other Public Law Proceedings are only entitled to legal aid if they satisfy certain financial and other criteria.
There have been some recent changes to the financial criteria which means that some people may now be eligible for legal aid who previously were not.
From 28th January 2021 the existing cap on the amount of mortgage debt that can be deducted from the value of the applicant’s main dwelling house will be removed. After this date, all mortgage debt will be deducted. This provision will be particularly helpful to applicants with limited equity in their main dwelling house.
There have also been some changes to the regulations that mean that claimants of certain compensation schemes are not disadvantaged when applying for legal aid.
There is now a mandatory disregard for payments made under the relevant infected blood schemes of each of the home nations, payments made under the Vaccine Damage Payment Act and compensation for people diagnosed with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
In addition, the Legal Aid Agency now has a discretion to disregard payments made from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, National Emergencies Trust, We Love Manchester Fund and from London Emergencies Trust Fund.
Discretionary disregards continue to apply to payments made to victims of Grenfell Tower Fire introduced in 2017 and to payments from the Windrush Compensation Scheme introduced in 2019.
Whilst the above changes are a step in the right direction, they do not redress the huge cuts to Legal Aid that have taken place in recent years.