Changes to the eligibility criteria for Civil Legal Aid
The Department of Justice has announced that Housing Assistance Payment and other social housing support measures – Rental Accommodation Scheme, Rent Supplement, Mortgage Interest Supplement and Rent Allowance – will now be excluded from the calculation of entitlement to legal aid.
This is a really positive development and is something that Community Law & Mediation has been campaigning for, for some time. We recently took a case on behalf of a client who had been excluded from accessing legal aid because their HAP payment pushed them over the financial threshold. The client had emerged from a situation of domestic violence and was a lone parent who was out of work and caring for young children. However, they were unable to access legal aid to pursue family law reliefs because their HAP payment, which is paid directly to the landlord by the local authority as a social housing support, was assessed as income by the Legal Aid Board.
These changes will bring great relief to many individuals and families who may be dealing with difficult situations at work or domestic violence in the home, but who cannot afford to pay for legal representation of their own.