PLP has written to the Lord Chancellor to request changes to the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme during the COVID 19 pandemic, to ensure that ECF remains a safety net to those most in need. The requested changes recognise the additional pressures on the legal aid sector under present circumstances, the significant changes to proceedings in courts and tribunals, and the additional barriers that disadvantaged and vulnerable groups might face accessing the ECF scheme as a result of COVID 19. You can read the full letter sent to the Lord Chancellor on 16 April here.

The letter requests that, as a matter of urgency, usual ECF procedures should be suspended and legal aid providers be given delegated powers to make grants of legal aid funding for out of scope cases. The letter also requests that the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on ECF should be amended, or further guidance issued, to recognise the particular barriers to effective participation in proceedings at this time, which may make ECF necessary in more cases. In response to the impact of coronavirus on court and tribunal proceedings, the letter requests that the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on ECF should be amended to make clear that obstacles to participating in remote hearings that would affect an applicant’s ability to effectively represent themselves, such as using and accessing technology, should be given particular weight in deciding whether ECF is necessary at this time.

Read the letter here.

You can read here the response from the Minister responsible for legal aid, Alex Chalk MP.