What is legal aid?

What is legal aid?

Depending on your financial situation and your legal issue, sometimes you are able to receive support with paying for legal advice. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 made some massive changes to which areas of law and which people were eligible for legal aid.

Legal problems eligible for legal aid:

  • if your house is at risk or you are being made bankrupt
  • facing eviction
  • if you are homeless or your health or safety is at risk in your rented home
  • harrassment
  • council tax reduction schemes
  • discrimination
  • domestic violence
  • mental health
  • community care
  •  a court order to protect you from harassment
  • an appeal against a decision stopping you from working with children and vulnerable adults
  • advice and help on Disabled Facilities Grants
  • civil claims relating to allegations of abuse and sexual assault
  • confiscation proceedings
  • an injunction for gang-related violence
  • an inquest into the death of a member of your family
  • an injunction to stop a nuisance caused by environmental pollution
  • cross-border disputes


Problems not eligible for legal aid:

  • consumer and other contractual disputes
  • most immigration cases
  • Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority cases
  • private family law, for example, divorce, dissolution of civil partnership, property, finance and children matters (other than cases where there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse)
  • personal injury or death
  • tort and other general claims
  • conveyancing
  • advice on will-making
  • matters of trust law
  • company or partnership law
  • business law
  • legal advice in relation to a change of name
  • defamation or malicious falsehood


The different levels of legal aid and what they pay for

There are different levels of legal aid to pay for different legal costs. The level of legal aid you receive will depend on your case.

Legal Help

Legal Help covers the cost of getting specialist advice. This includes your legal adviser explaining your rights and the different options you have to resolve your problem. It can also include the cost of someone negotiating for you, making sure an existing legal decision is enforced or preparing a written case.

Help at Court

Help at Court pays for an adviser to speak for you in a civil court if you don’t need to defend yourself. For example, if you have agreed you owe money to someone but need to sort out how and when to pay the debt.

Family Mediation

Family Mediation can pay for an independent mediator to try and help you resolve family disputes without having to go to court. For example, they can help you agree about contact with your children if your relationship breaks down.

Family Help

Family Help covers help or representation for family disputes. For example, it can help you draw up any legal agreements between you and your partner or spouse. However, it does not cover the cost of someone speaking for you or representing you at a final court hearing or appeal.

Controlled Legal Representation

This covers representation at mental health tribunal proceedings or, in asylum and immigration cases, before the First-tier Tribunal.

Financial conditions for legal aid 

If you receive the following benefits, your income will not be looked at when deciding if you are eligible for legal aid, only your capital:

  • Income Support
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit.


If you have income

Legal aid is not provided for those whose gross monthly income is more than £2,657. Your gross monthly income is what you earn before tax and national insurance deductions. However, if you have more than four children, the limit goes up by £222 for the fifth and each additional child. Your partner’s income is also included in the amount.

If you earn less than £2,657 per month, your solicitor or adviser will check how much monthly disposable income you have. This is the amount of money left after you paid tax, national insurance, maintenance, housing costs and some other expenses. If you have a partner who has no income, or if you have children, a certain amount of your income will be taken into account to cover their expenses.

If your monthly disposable income is more than £733 you will not be eligible for legal aid.

If your disposable income is less than £733 per month but more than £315, you will be entitled to Legal Help, but you will have to contribute towards any Legal Representation you might get. The amount of contribution depends on your income.

If you have capital

If you have capital (savings) of more than £8,000 you will not be entitled to legal aid. The savings could be money in the bank, items of value or the value of your home if you own it.

Your partner’s capital is also included in this amount.

If you have capital of less than £3,000, you will not have to pay towards the costs of your case if you are receiving Legal Representation. However, if you do have more than £3,000 you will have to pay a contribution and it will be all of the capital you have over £3,000.up to the total cost of the legal advice.

If you own your home

Your home will be considered capital when applying for legal aid. However, not all the value of your home will be taken into account. You can deduct your mortgage or any charges on your home, up to a maximum of £100,000. This is called mortgage disregard. You can also deduct 3% of the market value of your home (the amount for which it could be sold for on the open market) for sales costs.

If you are over 60, in addition to any mortgage disregard some of your capital may also be disregarded. This amount depends on how much spare income you have. If you have between £0-£25 spare income each month, your disregarded capital will be £100,000. If you have £226 – £315 spare income per month, your disregarded capital will be £10,000. If you have more than £315 spare income each month you won’t have any capital disregarded, with the possible exception of mortgage disregard.

Applying for legal aid

To apply for legal aid contact Civil Legal Advice emailhelp@civillegaladvice.org.uk

Telephone: 0845 345 4 345, Minicom: 0845 609 6677 Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm, Saturday, 9am to 12:30pm

Calls cost 4p a minute from a BT landline. Mobile calls usually cost more.

You can also ask Civil Legal Advice for a free call back – use the online service or text ‘legalaid’ and your name to 80010. They will call you back within 24 hours.

To find out if you qualify for legal aid, complete this questionnaire from GOV.uk.

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