Community Legal Advice, now known as Civil Legal Advice (CLA), is a type of legal assistance that is available to individuals and families who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. It can help you with a variety of issues, including family law, housing law, benefits law, and more.
In this article, we will discuss Community Legal Advice in detail and answer some common questions about it. For simplicity, CLA will be used to refer to either Community Legal Advice or Civil Legal Advice interchangeably as they both refer to the same suite of government-funded legal services.
Who Provides Community Legal Advice?
CLA is one of several legal advice support options provided as part of Legal Aid. As with all Legal Aid services, several eligibility criteria need to be satisfied to request CLA.
CLA is not provided directly by government-retained lawyers but is facilitated by civil contracted providers which are professional, third-party legal service providers. There are a variety of civil contracted providers who provide CLA, including law centres and Citizens Advice Bureau. Many of these organisations are independent charities or non-profit organisations that specialise in free or low-cost legal services for those who need them. In some cases, you may be able to get community legal advice from a private law firm that has been approved by Legal Aid.
What Can Community Legal Advice Help With?
CLA is specifically intended to provide a range of legal services and advice to assist low-income and at-risk persons. The categories of legal assistance provided through CLA are:
CLA provides specialist legal services for those currently involved in, or facing abusive relationships or forced marriages. Further, they can provide family mediation services to assist with child or financial arrangements for those leaving an abusive relationship or when children are being taken into care. They can also assist if children already in a care arrangement are believed to be at risk of harm or abuse.
If you are facing eviction, having difficulty paying rent or are at risk of homelessness CLA or other Legal Aid services may be able to help. CLA can assist with landlord conflicts such as refusal to fix or maintain the property to the standard required by law (e.g. properties must not pose a risk to the health or safety of tenants), harassment by landlords or other anti-social behaviour related to residential settings.
If you are facing severe financial hardship such as imminent bankruptcy or losing your home CLA can provide advice. Difficulties can include being late on mortgage payments or facing the loss of your home by court order or needing to sell your home as part of a financial settlement.
CLA is available to anybody who has been treated in a manner that breaches the Equality Act 2010. This includes discrimination or harassment based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or disability. If you are unsure if your situation is discrimination or is covered by CLA contact a CLA operator. A CLA operator can assess eligibility and provide general information.
If you’ve experienced bullying and harassment at work and have suffered physically, mentally, or both, you may also want to get independent advice on a personal injury claim.
Special Education Support and Assistance
For parents and guardians of children who require special education or education support, CLA can provide representation. This includes identifying the need for and seeking special education or disputing how support is being provided. Special education is available for those with various mental, sensory and physical impairments, difficulty learning, emotional disorders or behavioural conditions.
Who is Eligible to Seek Community Legal Advice
In order to be eligible for community legal advice you must:
- Be a resident of England or Wales
- Have insufficient income or financial resources to enable you to meet the cost of your legal matter without assistance.
- Your case should also fall into one of the categories of law that CLA covers (as listed above). If you are not sure if your situation is covered by CLA, you can contact a CLA operator for more information.
As a general rule, CLA is the primary support service for those seeking debt, special needs/education or discrimination assistance. This applies unless:
- You are under 18.
- You are currently in prison or a secure hospital.
- Have previously been assessed in the last 12 months as requiring face-to-face assistance for the same or similar issue.
If you are seeking family or housing assistance it is generally at the discretion of those seeking CLA whether you contact CLA for remote assistance or go to a face-to-face advisor.
Do You Qualify?
If you want to know if you qualify for CLA, visit the Legal Aid online eligibility check.
The checker will ask a number of questions about your specific circumstances and financial capacity and can provide directions to relevant support networks, even if you are not eligible for Legal Aid.
General Eligibility Criteria:
Show that you are unable to pay for your own legal representation.
- Recipients of benefits (Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Employment or Support Allowance, Pension Credit)
- Combined household income below £2,657 per month before tax. For families with 5 or more children the household threshold increases by £222 per month for the fifth and each additional child.
- Have less than £8,000 in substantial or liquid assets (cash, property and stocks or shares).
How to Access Community Legal Advice?
The most direct way to enter the system is to visit the community legal advice website. On this site enter your details and request a CLA callback.
By phone, Monday to Friday: 9 am–8 pm and Saturday: 9 am–12.30 pm:
CLA can be contacted by phone on 0345 345 4 345. Calls are usually charged at 9p/minute from landlines, mobiles may be higher. If you do not have internet access to request a callback you may request a callback by texting ‘legal aid’ and your name to 80010.
Accessibility and Support:
- Free interpreter services are available in over 170 languages.
- Sign language support via web camera.
- Relay/minicom via 0845 609 6677.
- A friend or third party can speak to CLA on behalf of the person.