‘The means testing of legal aid is set at a level that can require people on low incomes to make contributions to legal costs that they could not afford while maintaining a socially acceptable standard of living.’
This is according to a September 2018 report from the Law Society.
The report considers whether legal costs can be afforded without payees and their households falling into poverty. It finds that:
- For applicants who have just enough to be required to pay for legal services (in full in the Magistrates’ Court and making an income-based contribution in the Crown Court): Remaining available income, whether for single people or those supporting a family, is below the minimum required for an acceptable standard of living.
- For defendants with just enough to be required to pay for legal services, after deducting their payment towards these services: At the lowest applicable income, paying this contribution each month causes defendants and their families to fall at least 40% short of a minimum acceptable standard of living.
- For Crown Court defendants on incomes well above the minimum income level at which contributions are made, but just below the upper income limit for legal aid: Though this group can have relatively high earnings, if legal costs are high enough they can still end up with inadequate monthly incomes (between 8% and 37% lower than needed).
- For those making income-based contributions in Crown Court cases: At the minimum incomes at which contributions are made in the Crown Court, these contributions typically push incomes 20% below the relative income poverty line.