‘The legal aid means test is preventing families in poverty from accessing justice’ says a March 2018 report (PDF) from the University of Loughborough and Law Society.
This report considers whether people required by the civil legal aid system to contribute to legal costs, based on their income and assets, can always afford to do so.
The report finds:
- At the maximum level of disposable income at which legal aid is allowed, households have too little income to reach a minimum standard of living even before footing any legal bills. Typically, they have disposable incomes 10% to 30% too low to afford a minimum budget
- Individuals with gross income above the £2,657 a month limit could generally afford to contribute a substantial amount to legal costs. However, some people with this level of gross income who are supporting families have incomes below the minimum, mainly because gross income includes tax credits and benefits, which contribute to meeting the cost of additional family members
- Those with above £316 a month in adjusted disposable income may receive legal aid but must contribute to their costs. This excludes almost all households where anyone works, and is roughly equivalent to the level of means-tested benefits, whose recipients receive full legal aid regardless of income.