State funding of legal services today
After the labour government introduced the Access to Justice Act 1999, there were some major reforms introduced to improve the quality and accessibility of the legal services whilst not over spending the government budget.
On the 1st April 2001 the Legal services commission was established to replace the previous legal Aid board that was abolished.
The first step taken by the legal services commission was to introduce a quality control mark.
The Quality Mark
The legal commission introduced a quality mark which is attached to all sorts of legal information allowing the general public to make a better informed choice about the legal services they choose to use. The mark may be attached to leaflets and information guides as well as solicitor firms and regulatory bodies.
For an association to gain the quality mark of the legal services commission, they have to meet certain standards so that every company that has achieved it will be of the same, consistently high standard.
Community legal services partnership
The legal services commission is under the obligation to liaise with all other services and providers of legal advice in order to create a network of services that will allow the legal services commission to see where there is a shortfall of advice services or where certain regions may lack the services needed to allow consistent representation whether rich or poor.
To do this, the community legal service commission has set up a community legal services partnership (CLSP’s, in each local authority area. These partnerships will share ideas, expertise and advice on what works and what does not.
Funding of the Community legal services
The financial funding of the community legal services comes from a community legal services fund, containing a fixed amount of money, set aside each year from the government budget.
Only advice agencies and solicitors that are registered with the legal community service are permitted to be paid through the fund set aside for financial legal help.
If the topic is a specialised area of law, then the commission will use the fund to obtain specialist firms with the ability to find the best advice and assistance possible for the clients. The type of specialist areas may include family litigation, immigration, mental health and clinical negligence.
What services are funded by the legal community services
The direct funding from the community legal services fund will provide financial help for the following services:
The legal help service provides initial help, assistance and guidance on a range of legal matters. This is a means tested service and has taken over from the duties covered by the previous ‘green paper’ scheme.
Help at Court
This is also a means tested service, and appoints someone, usually a solicitor or advisor, to speak on behalf of the client in court hearings, without formally acting on their behalf. This representation does not usually cover all the legal proceedings, and may just be applied for certain court hearings.
This service will establish if mediation is the best form of dispute resolution within a family problem, and if mediation is the best way forward, the service will offer the family the chance to participate in free family mediation.
Funding is made available for people to receive representation during legal proceedings. This scheme takes over from the previous civil aid scheme.
Family help is funded by the legal community services fund in order to provide help and guidance for families during legal disputes through negotiation and problem solving initiatives. If this process is not successful, then the funding will provide the initiative to carry out court proceedings and will provide the cost of any legal representation.
What services are not paid for by the legal community services fund?
There are certain services that are no longer covered by the legal community services fund, these include:
- Personal Injury cases
- Cases of defamation and malicious falsehood
- Disputes arising through the course of business
- Legal matters that occur as a result of a partnership, trusts or boundary disputes or company disputes
The above legal problems have been completely removed from eligibility of state funding as the government do not see matters of this nature being sufficiently important enough to require government help.
Am I eligible for legal funding?
Whether or not a person is eligible to receive financial help with their legal issues will depend on three things:
- Type of legal problem
- Probability of winning your case
Financial conditions on legal help
A person will be eligible to apply for legal aid, if they or a partner receives the following government help:
- Income support
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Guarantee credit part of Pension Credit.
- If you have a gross monthly income of £2,657, then you will not be eligible to apply for legal aid. The gross income is the money you ear before tax and national insurance are deducted.
- If you have more than four children, then for every additional child over the fourth, the limit permitted to be earned per month to still be eligible for legal aid increases by £222.
- If you have 5 children you are allowed to earn a maximum of £2879
- If you have 10 children, the limit is £3989 gross income per month.
- If you have a disposable capital (savings) of £80,000 or more you will not be eligible for legal help. This will include money in the bank, investments in property and valuable items.