Reform of legal aid means testing is urgently needed to ensure the system is fair and accessible – here’s how it can be achieved

Read our full consultation response

Making sure legal aid is accessible to those who need it is not simply a matter of compassion – it is a key component in ensuring the constitutional right of access to justice.

While some proposals in the Ministry of Justice’s Means Test Review consultation will improve aspects of the civil legal aid system – such as increases to overall income and capital limits which will make more people eligible for legal aid, and new ‘disregards’ which will make the tests fairer by excluding certain types of income and capital – it nonetheless fails to ensure access to justice for those most vulnerable, or establish true sustainability within the sector.

We have significant concerns that proposals:

  • Lack effective safeguards, excluding people who cannot afford to pay privately
  • Disadvantage single parents, low-income homeowners, and disabled people
  • Increase administrative burdens upon applicants for and providers of civil legal aid, and
  • Threaten the sustainability of civil legal aid

In addition, the lack of a clear timetable for implementation or a commitment to review and uprate thresholds/disregards on an annual basis means that positive improvements risk being quickly eroded by the increasing cost of living.

Read our recommendations to find out how these barriers can be overcome and why reforms are needed now more than ever:

full consultation response

Read PLP solicitor Daniel Rourke on why these recommendations are urgent