There are a number of reasons that people who need civil legal aid may currently find it difficult to access. We are working to increase access to legal aid by improving knowledge about the availability of legal aid and challenging barriers to access where they exist. We have produced a range of information and resources aimed at individuals and advisers to help identify where legal aid may be available, and how to access it.

Your case is in scope for legal aid

The areas of law that are still in scope are set out in Part 1 of Schedule 1 of LASPO. They include:

  • Community care
  • Actions against public authorities
  • Mental health and mental capacity
  • Judicial review
  • Special educational needs
  • Asylum claims
  • Immigration detention
  • Discrimination
  • Debt where the person’s home is at risk. This includes mortgage possession of the home, orders for sale of the home and involuntary bankruptcy where the person’s estate includes their home.
  • Housing where the person’s home is at risk or the person is homeless. This includes possession of the home, eviction, disrepair in rented accommodation where the disrepair poses a serious risk to health or safety, homelessness assistance and anti-social behaviour cases.
  • Public family law regarding the protection of children.
  • Private family law where there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, child abduction cases, forced marriage protection cases and cases where a child is a party to the proceedings.
  • Clinical negligence where a child suffers a neurological injury resulting in them being severely disabled during pregnancy, child birth or the postnatal period.
  • Immigration where there are issues of domestic violence, proceedings in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or issues of human trafficking or slavery, servitude or forced labour.
  • Welfare benefits, where there is an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal where the tribunal reviews its own decision because there has been an error of law or an appeal to the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court on a point of law.

If your case falls into one of these areas, you may be eligible for legal aid, and you should seek legal advice from a solicitor specialising in that area. The Legal Aid Agency has a “check if you can get legal aid” tool on its website that can also help show if a case is in scope for legal aid, although it is not always very clear. Even if you do not think your case is listed above, or if the Legal Aid Agency’s website does not seem to say that legal aid is available, it always is best to check with a legal aid solicitor whether it is. You can identify solicitors in your area by using the search function on the Law Society’s ‘find a solicitor’ website and you can search for organisations which provide legal aid services through the gov.uk website.

If your case does not fall into one of these areas, you may still be eligible for Exceptional Case Funding (ECF). You can read more about ECF here.

Your case is strong enough

In order to be eligible for legal aid that is in-scope or ECF you will generally need to be able to show that your case is strong enough. This can be referred to as the case meeting the “merits criteria.” How strong your case needs to be depends on what kind of legal service you need. For example, to get legal advice and help putting your case forward, without going to court or a tribunal, it will need to be reasonable for the government to fund the lawyer’s work with the cost of doing so outweighed by the benefit you will gain from it. However, in order to get legal aid for representation at a court or tribunal, you will need to meet a higher threshold. In many cases the test will be whether you are at least as likely to win your case as to lose it. If you have a legal aid solicitor they will advise you whether your case is strong enough for legal aid to be granted for the work that needs to be done.

In order to be eligible for legal aid that is in-scope or ECF you will generally need to be able to show that your case is strong enough. This can be referred to as the case meeting the “merits criteria.” How strong your case needs to be depends on what kind of legal service you need. For example, to get legal advice and help putting your case forward, without going to court or a tribunal, it will need to be reasonable for the government to fund the lawyer’s work with the cost of doing so outweighed by the benefit you will gain from it. However, in order to get legal aid for representation at a court or tribunal, you will need to meet a higher threshold. In many cases the test will be whether you are at least as likely to win your case as to lose it. If you have a legal aid solicitor they will advise you whether your case is strong enough for legal aid to be granted for the work that needs to be done.

You are financially eligible for legal aid

The Legal Aid Agency will only grant legal aid to people who meet the financial eligibility criteria. This means that, if you apply for legal aid that is in-scope or ECF, you will have to provide information about your financial circumstances. This will include details of your income, your savings, whether or not you own your home, whether you have a mortgage, and whether you receive a pension, as well as whether there are people who are financially dependent on you. If you have a partner, you will also have to provide information about their finances. When considering whether or not you are eligible for legal aid, the Legal Aid Agency will look at your disposable income (the money you have left after paying basic living expenses) and your disposable capital (any savings, property, investments or valuable belongings that you could use or sell to pay for a lawyer).

For a more detailed assessment of whether you might be eligible for legal aid you can use the Ministry of Justice ‘eligibility calculator’, which is available here, although it should be noted that this is a fairly complex and time consuming tool.