Who Can Get Legal Aid?

In the UK, legal aid provides legal advice and assistance to those who cannot afford it. It is available to anyone who meets the legal aid requirements based on the type of assistance they require and satisfies the eligibility criteria.

Legal aid can be requested for a wide variety of reasons, including family law, housing law, and criminal law. The purpose of legal aid is to ensure that everyone has access to justice, regardless of their financial circumstances. In this article, we will discuss who can get legal aid and what they need to do to request it.

What Types of Circumstances Can You Request Legal Aid for?

Legal aid can provide financial or other assistance to access legal services for cases such as mediation, civil proceedings or tribunals and criminal trials. The assistance provided by legal aid may be free legal advice or representation, or financial assistance or partial support to meet your legal fees. This means that before accessing legal aid you must prove that:

  • Your case is eligible for legal aid.
  • The case or tribunal is a serious matter.
  • You are unable to pay for legal counsel.

Legal aid is available to cover several types of situations, these include:

Family Matters

Legal aid is available to support those facing serious family disputes. This includes mediation of family conflicts to resolve child and financial settlement cases, especially those related to domestic violence and abuse. Assistance leaving situations where you face the risk of serious harm, including abusive relationships, domestic violence and forced marriages.

Housing Assistance

If you are facing the loss of your home or potential homelessness you may be able to access free legal advice through legal aid. This may be due to the inability to pay your mortgage, foreclosure or forced sale as part of another legal settlement and disputes or harassment by a landlord in residential tenancy agreements.

Criminal Proceedings

If you have been accused of a criminal offence, or are facing prison or detention as a result of a legal case you can request legal aid. Legal aid is available in the form of both advice and legal representation for your case, including case settlement and sentencing hearings.

Discrimination Support

If you have experienced discrimination, are currently experiencing discrimination or are at risk of discrimination you may be able to access support through legal aid. Legal aid support is available for all types of discrimination, including discrimination due to age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, physical and or mental impairment, educational disability or any other discrimination that breaches the Equality Act 2010.

Human Rights Claims

If you are bringing a case under the Human Rights Act or adding a legal argument to a human rights case you may be entitled to legal aid.

Who Can Apply for Legal Aid?

The purpose of legal aid is to ensure that everyone can access legal representation. Legal aid is available to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria. The criteria vary depending on the type of legal matter you are seeking assistance with.

Civil Case Claimants

Civil cases encompass all matters not pertaining to a criminal case, matters such as debt, family disputes, housing issues and most types of discrimination cases. To access legal aid for civil cases you will need to demonstrate that you cannot afford to pay for your legal costs and that the matter is of a serious nature.

Those on low income or disability support payments or who are recipients of the pension or other allowances are usually eligible. When requesting legal aid you will need to provide evidence of your income, savings and other assets, or if you are under 18 you will need to prove your parents’ or guardians’ income. You may also need to prove the type of case being brought. This can include a letter from a GP proving that you or a child in your care are the victim(s) of abuse.

Financial circumstances are not considered in cases related to child abductions, disputes about the care of children, including children being taken into public care, as well as mental health tribunals.

Criminal cases

Free legal advice is available to anyone being questioned in a police station. You will also be entitled to legal aid to cover the costs of court representation if you are:

  • Under 16 years of age.
  • Under 18 years of age and in full-time education.
  • Currently receiving certain low-income and/or disability or other benefits.

Paying for Your Legal Fees

Legal aid may provide partial or full support for legal advice and/or representation for civil matters. Regardless if you have received full or partial support, if you win your case and receive financial benefits in the settlement (cash or assets) you may be required to repay some or all of your legal aid costs. For more information about paying for legal aid, click here.

Requesting Legal Aid

There may be other circumstances than those given in which legal aid may be available to you. To apply for legal aid or to check if you are eligible visit the UK government legal aid checker. The legal aid check will ask a series of questions to determine your eligibility. Even if your case is not eligible for legal aid the online check will direct you to other support services that may be available to you.

The information provided only applies to legal aid in England and Wales, for legal aid in Scotland and Northern Ireland different legal aid rules apply.