This sheet provides information on getting publicly funded legal assistance for educational law matters such as discrimination, special educational needs or judicial review. It explains what legal aid is, when it is available and the type of help it covers.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid is the use of public funds to help to pay for legal advice and court or tribunal representation. The Legal Aid Agency is in charge of providing legal aid in England and Wales. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 governs what areas legal aid is available in from 1 April 2013.
There are usually 3 considerations for legal aid:
- Category – the matter is a type that can be funded by legal aid
- Means Test – an assessment of your financial circumstances
- Merits Test – the likelihood of success, the reasonableness of the costs and whether a reasonable person would use their own money to pay for the case.
What types of legal aid are there?
Legal aid will pay for legal assistance from solicitors. There are different types of legal aid including:
Legal Help – this is the first level of publically funded assistance and allows a solicitors firm to advise and assist you with your case. It does not fund the costs of representation at court.
Legal Representation – this is a higher level of funding and allows a solicitors firm to prepare your case and represent you in court or arrange for a barrister to represent you in court.
In order to be eligible for legal aid, your financial circumstances must be assessed and fall within the limits set by the Legal Aid Agency. All educational law cases will be means-tested. You will be required to give information about your income, benefits, savings, property and shares and those of your partner.
How does an application for legal aid work?
You must contact Civil Legal Advice to be assessed for legal aid for educational matters. If you are believed to be eligible for legal aid, you will be allocated to a specialist education advisor.
The specialist will then assess your eligibility for legal aid. If your case can be funded by legal aid, the specialist will take further information and, if necessary, send you documentation to confirm your financial eligibility. If the specialist, after assessing your documentation, is satisfied that you are eligible for legal aid, you can be assisted under the ‘Legal Help’ scheme with your case. Your specialist will advise you on the matters that they can assist you with and any limitation of the scheme.
Legal aid can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal.
You’ll usually need to show that:
- your case is eligible for legal aid
- the problem is serious
- you cannot afford to pay for legal costs.
You could for example get legal aid if:
- you or your family are at risk of abuse or serious harm, for example domestic violence or forced marriage
- you’re at risk of homelessness or losing your home
- you’ve been accused of a crime, face prison or detention
- you’re being discriminated against
- you need family mediation
- you’re adding legal arguments or bringing a case under the Human Rights Act.
You’ll usually need to show that you cannot afford to pay for this help. You may have to pay some money towards the legal costs of your case or pay costs back later.
Legal Aid Checker: https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid