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Legal Aid means test review launched

The Ministry of Justice has launched a review of the means test for legal aid as part of the Legal Support Action Plan.

Chapters 1 and 2 of the consultation document summarise the existing legal aid means tests and lay out the overarching approach to legal aid eligibility. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 detail the proposals in relation to civil legal aid. Chapters 6 and 7 detail the proposals in relation to criminal legal aid. Chapter 8 outlines the proposals for implementation and monitoring.

The ministerial foreword states:

"We want to do even more to support victims of domestic abuse – for whom legal proceedings can be both traumatic and costly. Under our plans, domestic abuse victims applying for a protective order or other proceedings would benefit from the more generous means test for civil legal aid. And any disputed assets – including property – will not be included in a means assessment. This is much fairer for domestic abuse victims who are contesting a property and who cannot use their equity in that property to fund the legal proceedings."

It is proposed to amend the means test so that where a domestic abuse victim has temporarily left their home but intends to return in the near future, or once it is safe to do so, the equity disregard should be applied. This will ensure victims are not penalised for fleeing their home to secure their safety.

For details of the consultation, which closes on 7 June 2022, and the consultation document itself, click here.