Eligibility for Funded Legal Assistance

May 2006

60.18 Persons eligible for funded services

The provision of services under the CLS and CDS are available to individuals only [note 1]. Certain types of matters are not eligible for services funded by the Commission (see paragraph 60.10 for more detail.)

60.19 Means/Merit test

Funded services exist in order to provide access to legal services to those who would otherwise be unable to afford them. When considering an application for funded services, the financial situation of the individual is considered in the means test. The individual's capital and income may be assessed, and the levels for eligibility vary according to the type of aid sought. Details of the financial eligibility levels for each type of aid sought are given in The Community Legal Service (Financial) Regulations 2000. Some services provided by the CDS and representation at a mental health review tribunal are not means tested.

In a civil case the merits of the case must also be assessed when considering an application.The merits of the case may be considered on the basis of one or more following criteria;

  • the "sufficient benefit" test, which is whether a reasonable private paying individual of moderate means would pay for the work,

  • the likely prospect of success in a case,

  • the likely cost benefit (by how much damages likely to be awarded will exceed costs incurred),

  • in public interest cases, the likely benefit to the individual and others.

60.20 Contributions

There are no contributions from capital or income required for Legal Help, Help at Court, Legal Representation before Immigration Adjudicators and the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, Family Mediation and Help with Mediation. For all other levels of service in civil matters, an individual with disposable capital and/or income over a certain amount will be required to make contributions to the cost of the service provided.

Contributions from income are payable monthly throughout the period the certificate is in force [note 2]. Contributions from capital are payable on assessment [note 3].

60.21 Change in financial circumstances and failure to keep up contributions

The funded individual has a duty to report any changes in his/her financial circumstances to his/her solicitor or the Commission [note 4] and a further assessment varying the amount of the contributions payable may be made [note 5]. If the change in financial circumstances renders the funded individual ineligible for funding, or if he/she fails to make the required contributions, funding can be withdrawn [note 6].

60.22 Refund of contributions made

Where a certificate has been revoked or discharged (on completion of the action, resolution of the dispute or otherwise) and the contributions made by the funded individual are more than the net cost of the funded services, the excess amount will be refunded to the funded individual [note 7].

If the funded individual is successful in his/her case, the other party may be required to pay some or all of the costs of the funded services. The net cost of the funded service will be reduced by the amount of the costs recovered by the Commission from the other party [note 8], and a refund of some or all of the contributions made may result [note 7].

60.23 Recovering the costs of the funded services - the statutory charge

If money or property is recovered or preserved as a result of services provided by the Commission, the Commission may have first call on any money or property recovered or preserved in the proceedings [note 9].This charge is used to repay the costs of funding the case if these have not been met by costs paid by the other side or contributions made by the funded individual. For more details on the operation of the charge see Part 4.


[Back to Part 2 - Types of legal assistance available and how they are obtained] [On to Part 4 - The statutory charge]