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Legal Aid Scheme: Domestic Abuse

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 46627, tabled on 13 May 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of legal aid provision for victims of domestic abuse during the covid-19 lockdown.

Answered on

22 May 2020

Victims of domestic abuse must have access to the help they need - including legal aid, which is subject to a means and merits test. We are working closely with practitioners to understand the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on victims and this week the Government announced funding of £800,000 for a helpline and email service to assist unrepresented victims applying for an emergency protective order from the courts.

The Legal Aid Agency is exercising flexibility with regard to the evidential requirements in relation to the means test to mitigate the effects caused by lockdown measures. This includes suspending the time limits by which applicants are expected to submit the substantive legal aid application with supporting means evidence (such as bank statements) and allowing practitioners to submit applications with electronic signatures from the client.

We recognise that victims of domestic abuse may need legal aid quickly in emergency situations, so there is already an eligibility cap waiver in place, which means that an applicant for a protective injunction may be eligible for legal aid even if they have income or capital above the thresholds in the means test, though they may have to pay a financial contribution towards their legal costs. We are currently conducting a review of the means test, as part of which we are considering the experiences of particular groups of legal aid applicants – including victims of domestic abuse.

Interests declared
The Member has declared that they have interests which may be relevant to the subject matter of this question.