On 11 May 2017, YLAL responded to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Consultation on Legal Aid Financial Eligibility and Universal Credit. The MoJ states that it is consulting on the impact of changes to the benefits system - specifically the introduction of Universal Credit to replace a number of previous benefits - on financial eligibility for legal aid.
Universal Credit, which is being gradually rolled out by the government, replaces a number of benefits, including some which are 'passporting' benefits for the purposes of criminal and civil legal aid. However, not all of the benefits which Universal Credit replaces are passporting benefits. As interim measure, Universal Credit was added to the list of passporting benefits.
However, as Universal Credit has a wider scope than the existing passporting benefits it replaces, the government proposes in future to only 'passport' those applicants for legal aid in receipt of Universal Credit who have no income from earnings.
YLAL's response to the consultation is attached below. We are indebted to the consultation response by Public Law Project, which we endorse. In addition to responding to the technical questions in the consultation, we call on the MoJ to conduct a comprehensive and objective review of the financial means tests for legal aid in order to ensure that legal aid is not reserved only for the very poorest and most vulnerable in society, but rather is available to anyone who is unable to pay for legal advice and representation.
YLAL would like to thank Jessie Brennan and Heather Thomas for their help in preparing this consultation response. You can read the full response below.