The Income Test
If you receive the below benefits then you can be passported through the income means test, so you will automatically qualify within the income test. Passporting benefits include:
- Income Support (IS)
- (income-based) Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Universal Credit (UC)
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit (GC)
- (income-related) Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Net and Gross income limit
You are automatically not eligible for legal aid if your ‘Gross’ income’ is higher than £2,657. If you have more than 4 child dependants, then add £222 to this figure for the fifth child and each further child.
To be eligible then your net income must be less than the limit which is currently set at £733 per month. Your net income is defined as your income after tax and deductions, minus the income disregards and minus housing costs and deductions. Details are below of the disregards and deductions:
- The following payments under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (or the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992) namely:
- Disability living allowance;
- Attendance allowance;
- Constant attendance allowance paid as an increase to disability pension;
- Any payment made out of the social fund;
- Carer’s Allowance; and
- Council Tax benefit.
- Any direct payments made under regulations made under the Health and Social Care Act 2001 (direct payments), section 17A of the Children Act 1989 (direct payments) or the Carers and Direct Payments Act (Northern Ireland) 2002;
- So much of any back to work bonus received under s.26 of the Jobseekers Act 1995 as is by virtue of that section to be treated as payable by way of jobseeker’s allowance;
- Severe Disablement Allowance paid under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (or the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992);
- Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance paid under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) (Amendment) Scheme 1983;
- Any pensions paid under the Naval, Military, Air Forces etc (Disability & Death) Service Pensions Order 2006(c);
- To the extent that it exceeds the relevant dependants allowance made under reg.25(2)(b), any financial support paid under any agreement for the care of a foster child; and
- Any payment made out of the Independent Living Fund (2006); and
- Any personal independence payment paid under the Welfare Reform Act 2012.
Potential Deductions from income
In determining disposable income, the following deductions can be made in respect of the client’s dependants (Regulation 25) from 7 April 2014:
£179.46 is allowed against income if the applicant has a partner (see partner definition in section 4.2). Note this allowance applies regardless of whether there is a contrary interest between the client and partner in respect of the claim provided their relationship hasn’t permanently broken down (such as in a case where the couple have a contrary interest in respect of a third party mortgagee seeking possession of their property but remain together); but the deduction should not be made in disputes between divorcing or separating couples. If the client is living with a new partner with whom you have aggregated their means, the deduction should be given in respect of the new partner.
£288.22 is allowed for each dependent child (including a foster child) or dependent relative of the applicant who is living in the same household and is aged 15 or under (at the beginning of the period of calculation).
£288.22 is allowed for each such dependant aged 16 or over.
Any allowance for a dependant child/relative aged 15 or under, or aged 16 or over, will be reduced by the amount of any independent income or benefit the relative may receive. Where the dependant child’s/relative’s income exceeds the amount of the allowance no deduction will be made, but the excess income will not be included in the determination as the client’s income. An allowance must not be made if the relative’s capital is over £8,000.
It would be normal to assume (unless information is given to the contrary) that a child under sixteen would not have any income but children over that age who are in full-time education or training may for example be receiving a grant or student loan, or a wage from an apprenticeship
Where a financial determination is carried out for a client who has separated from the other parent of the child, you must determine whether the deduction for a child dependant can be made (the deduction cannot be applied to both parents, even where residence is shared). Generally the deduction is made where the child lives in the client’s household and the client appears to be the main carer of the child; the main carer is usually the person who receives child benefit for that child, but this may not always be the case. If no one with parental responsibility has claimed child benefit, the allowance will be granted if the child lives with the client and the client appears to be supporting the child from their money. (Note, if the dependants allowance does not apply, a deduction can be made for maintenance paid for the child see section 6.3)
In calculating disposable income an allowance can be made in respect of mortgage or rent payable for the period of calculation in respect of the client’s main dwelling (regulation 28). The amount allowed must be net of housing benefit i.e. the amount payable as per the tenancy agreement minus the amount met by housing benefit.
For clients with no dependants living in their household i.e. where no dependants allowances have been made (see s.6.2 above) the maximum monthly allowance in this respect will be £545. No excess over the amount can be allowed. Where any dependants allowance(s) have been made then the rent or mortgage repayments can be allowed in full.
Fees/Contributions to legal costs
You do not make contributions for controlled work (this is also known as ‘Legal Help’) and family mediation cases. Although you may be eligible for legal aid, there are situations were you may have to make a contribution to the cost of your legal aid costs. The legal aid agency will request that you pay a contribution for work under a ‘legal aid certificate’ (this is full legal aid) where your disposable income exceeds £315 per calendar month and/or your capital exceeds £3,000.