New Legal Aid Changes Expand Access to Justice

2023 has seen the Legal Aid Agency extend the scope of those eligible to apply for Legal Aid, which was well received by us at MSB, as we are passionate about trying to ensure everyone has access to justice! 

In March, the Legal Aid Agency changed the criteria so those opposing applications for placement and adoption orders in public family law proceedings (proceedings involving social services) will now not need to be subject to an assessment of their means. This means that any parents involved in placement applications will no longer have to pass a means (income) test to apply for legal aid in placement applications. The changes will give parents who face the prospect of permanent separation from their children a chance to obtain appropriate legal advice and support. 

Further changes, that come into force on 1st March 2023, mean professionals can now provide a letter to confirm they believe the person is a victim of domestic abuse following a telephone call or a video consultation, rather than a face-to-face consultation. This small change is a step in the right direction to make legal advice and representation easier to achieve for victims of domestic abuse. 

The last of the legal aid changes came into force last week on 1st May and represent a big change for those wishing to make an application for a Special Guardianship Order, or those responding to an application for a Special Guardianship Order.  

Previously, a kinship (family or relative) carer, such as an aunt/uncle or grandparent of a child wishing to make an application to Court to offer a child a stable and permanent home, could not apply for legal aid to do so unless they had been a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of one of the child’s parents. This meant that most kinship carers could not access legal advice when deciding how best to secure a child’s placement in their care. The ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care’ launched an inquiry into access to legal aid for Kinship Carers and prospective Kinship Carers and have long been advocating for this amendment to the scope of legal aid. They argued that the lack of access to proper legal advice was undermining Kinship Care.  

The previous legal aid rules meant that many parents and prospective carers alike were left to navigate this complex process alone without appropriate legal advice and support. Now, under the new rules, a mother or father or person with parental responsibility will be eligible to apply for legal aid to receive advice in any application for a Special Guardianship Order made by a Kinship Carer subject to means and merits testing. A prospective special guardian may also be eligible, subject to a means and merits test, to receive legal aid to pursue an application for a Special Guardianship order.  This is a welcome change which will undoubtably help many families, especially children, moving forward. 

MSB have a great record when it comes to obtaining legal aid for those who are eligible. If you would like any further information, please contact Amelia Thompson –

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