The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) has been in force over roughly two years now but there is still much confusion surrounding family law issues and legal aid eligibility. Nadia Salam of GT Stewart and Resolution member clears up some of the misconceptions to help everyone have a better understanding of the whole process.
Legal aid is still available for the following situations: public child law, protective injunctions, unlawful removal of children, children who are a party to proceedings, family mediation and other family problems. Other family problems include where a client has suffered or is at risk of domestic violence and where a child is a risk of abuse from another individual.
To seek legal aid advice and representation where there has been or is a risk of domestic violence the client needs to obtain evidence before they are eligible for funding. The evidence required can include a conviction for a domestic violence offence, on-going criminal proceedings, a protective injunction and a letter from a health professional or Social Services. A letter from a domestic violence support organisation, a health professional referral or a domestic violence protection notice (DVPN) can also be used as evidence to gain legal aid funding in such cases.
Evidence is also needed to seek legal aid advice and representation in disputes where a child is at risk from an individual who will be involved in the proceedings. Evidence for these types of situations can include an unspent conviction for child abuse, a police caution for a child abuse offence, a protective injunction and a letter or child protection plan from Social Services.
Nadia states how at times the evidence can be difficult to obtain for a number of reasons but it is essential to have in order to secure funding. In exceptional cases where clients do not meet the above criteria there is the possibility of obtaining funding if without legal aid the claim would be practically impossible or would lead to unfairness in proceedings.
Nadia concludes that despite the cuts to legal aid which have changed the way family advice can be assessed there are still a number of matters that attract it. It is important that individuals are aware of when legal aid is available to ensure they can access the help they need.