The most vulnerable will be better supported to access justice despite the rising cost of living thanks to new proposals published on the 7th March to reform the government “Help with Fees” scheme, says the Ministry of Justice.
The scheme supports people on low incomes and with little to no savings with court and tribunal fees, ensuring a person’s financial situation does not limit their ability to seek justice.
The government has launched a 12-week consultation to expand the scheme by raising the income threshold for eligibility and providing better targeted support for those on lower incomes.
In the last year alone, the scheme provided over £80 million in financial help for thousands of people so they can exercise their legal rights in cases such as family disputes, housing issues, and compensation claims for personal injury.
Justice Minister, Mike Freer, said:
“We recognise this is a challenging time financially for people across the country so it is vital we continue to ensure everyone can afford justice.
The Help with Fees scheme has helped thousands of vulnerable people to pay court fees since its inception in 2013 and our reforms will make the scheme more generous and targeted at those who need it most.”
Proposed changes to income thresholds will vary depending on different families and their circumstances, including the age of any children. For example:
- For a couple with two children under 14, the monthly income threshold would increase from £1,875 per month to £2,980
- For a single person with no children the threshold would increase from, £1,170 per month to £1,420
For the first time, eligibility for the scheme will also take into account the extra costs associated with looking after a child aged over 14, making sure families in these circumstances benefit from more generous support towards the costs of court and tribunal fees.
To make sure the most financially vulnerable are better supported, the government also plans to change how the scheme is targeted by:
- Providing more flexibility for individuals with money in savings and investments by increasing the minimum capital threshold for the scheme. This will allow applicants to have more capital before they become ineligible for the scheme
- Making it easier for the self-employment and those who work variable shift patterns to qualify as the revised scheme better recognises that income can fluctuate month-on-month
- Ensuring those on higher incomes contribute more towards their court and tribunal fees, by revising partial fee discounts so the more an individual earns, the more they pay towards their fees
- Raising the scheme’s age cap to the state pension age of 66 from 61
To qualify for the scheme an individual needs to be on a low income or be on benefits such as Income Support, Universal Credit or Pension Credit.
Some people on a higher income may still be supported by the scheme. Individuals can check their eligibility and apply for the scheme online.
The full consultation and proposals outlined can be found here: Revising the “Help with Fees” remission scheme – GOV.UK