Applying for exceptional legal aid funding (without the help of a solicitor)

The Public Law Project have produced a guide to “Legal Aid Exceptional Case Funding: Applying without the assistance of an adviser or solicitor”.

The guide says:

Applying for Exceptional Case Funding is not simple or easy. If you can get help from a solicitor or another lawyer to make the application for ECF, that is much better. But it can be hard to find someone willing and able to help because the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) does not pay lawyers to make applications which are refused.

What is legal aid?

Legal aid helps people with no or little income pay for the cost of getting legal advice. The government allocates funds for this purpose, and the legal aid fees are paid directly to the legal advice provider.

In the UK, legal aid is available for asylum claims, but is no longer available in England and Wales for legal advice or representation in non-asylum immigration matters. In terms of legal aid, an “asylum claim” also includes humanitarian protection claims (on the basis of a real risk of serious harm/indiscriminate violence) and claims based on Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life; and the right not to be subject to inhuman, degrading treatment/torture).

Legal aid is still available for non-asylum immigration cases in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This means that if your immigration case is not an asylum case and you are in England or Wales, in most cases you cannot get legal aid advice or representation. You can no longer get legal aid, for example, for family migration cases, including family reunification applications under the Refugee Convention; matters around student visas; or visitor visas. If you are facing deportation, you cannot get legal aid if your case does not have an asylum or Article 3 element. You cannot generally get legal aid for Article 8 cases – the right to family and private life.

What is exceptional case funding?

There is the possibility of applying, however, for exceptional case funding – if the case is particularly compelling or you can prove there are important issues at stake.  When this was first introduced, the threshold for succeeding in applying for this funding was very high and very few applications were granted the funding, but this was successfully challenged by lawyers.

Before applying for exceptional case funding, you need to check if you are eligible for normal legal aid (in which case you would not need to go ahead with the application for exceptional funding).  See information on the Legal Aid Agency website here.

To get exceptional case funding, you need to show that your case meets the relevant ‘merits criteria’, and t if you are not granted funding, there will be a breach of your human rights or EU rights.

Read more about this in the Public Law Project guide.

The guide contains information about the form you should use to apply, financial evidence you will need to supply, explaining how your case is complicated, and other information you may need to give the Legal Aid Agency.

Download the guide here

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