The ‘Help with Fees’ scheme protects universal access to justice by providing those on low income and little to no savings with financial help towards the cost of these fees.
The scheme offers essential support to vulnerable individuals and comes at a crucial time following recent, but now reducing, inflation.
The income and capital eligibility thresholds are being raised significantly, potentially supporting thousands more people and ensuring justice is never unaffordable.
The scheme is also being simplified making it easier for people to use, including allowing their legal representatives to complete applications.
In the last year alone, the scheme has provided over £80 million to thousands of people in a wide range of cases such as family disputes, housing issues and compensation claims for personal injuries.
Justice Minister Mike Freer said:
No matter what someone’s finances, it is vital they can get the justice they deserve which is why we are making it easier for more people to get help with court fees.
The Help with Fees scheme has already helped tens of thousands of people pay court fees since we created it in 2013 and our reforms will make it more generous for those who need it most.
The 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 2 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
Additional financial support will be provided for parents with a child aged 14 or over, considering the greater cost associated with looking after older children.
The Government will also change how the scheme is targeted to make sure the most financially vulnerable are better supported 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-employed and those who work variable shift patterns to qualify by better recognising that income can fluctuate month- on-month.
- Ensuring those on higher incomes pay more of 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 from 61 to the state pension age of 66.
The reforms follow a public consultation earlier this year which found the majority of respondents were very supportive of the Government’s plans to expand and improve the scheme. The reformed scheme will come into force later this year.
The changes come alongside wider Government measures to ensure people can access justice no matter their personal finances. Earlier this year more than 6 million more people were made eligible for legal aid advice and representation under a major investment to support those who need it most.