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Accessing legal aid

As of 1 April 2013 access to legal aid for employment matters was withdrawn. This means that no legal aid is available for non – discrimination based employment matters UNLESS the applicant is a victim of trafficking.

Eligibility

For compensation claims the applicant does not need to have been recognised by a Competent Authority but they will be required to provide evidence as to why the definition of trafficking is met. In practice this will require a letter from the support provider setting out what indicators are present and why on the specific facts of the case the applicant is deemed to have been trafficked.

It does not matter whether the applicant entered the UK lawfully or not, for the purpose of accessing legal aid for a trafficking compensation claim, the main issue is whether they are trafficked. Being an undocumented worker, goes to the type of legal complaint open to be made.

If the applicant does not meet the definition of trafficked then they will not be able to access legal aid unless the matter amounts to a complaint of unlawful discrimination.

Evidence of means

The Legal Aid Agency requires applicants to provide evidence of their financial position. For Legal Help this will be the financial position in the month prior to the application. For full legal aid, often referred to as Certificated work, this will be the three months prior to the application. Evidence is usually made up of:

  • Bank Statements for any account held abroad or in the UK
  • Payslips if the applicant is in employment and receives payslips
  • Evidence of rent payments, either in the form of a rent agreement, rent receipts, letter from landlord
  • Benefits letter dated within three months of the application being made.

If the applicant has a partner then the Legal Aid Agency will require financial information for them also.

If the applicant is not in employment, is not receiving benefits or is receiving support from a charity then a letter from the support provider confirming the date support began and the sum received, either weekly or monthly, then the Legal Aid Agency will accept this as evidence of financial means.

The Legal Aid Agency often review means at short notice and will cancel legal aid if documentation is not produced. Legal Aid not only covers the costs incurred in relation to a case but also provides costs protection meaning if the claim is not successful the applicant will not be held liable for their opponent’s legal fees,