The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has today announced that Financial support provided to victims of Grenfell tower fire to pay for essentials can be disregarded when making financial eligibility assessments.
The Civil Legal Aid Regulations have been urgently amended to enable victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy to access Legal Aid without certain payouts received due to the tragedy being taken into account for means testing. The guidance for providers states –
“The Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 amends the means testing rules governing eligibility for civil legal aid. The changes allow payments made to support victims of the Grenfell Tower fire with the cost of essentials to be disregarded from the civil legal aid means test; this covers payments such as those from the Government’s Grenfell Tower Resident’s Discretionary Fund or charities to pay for clothes, food, transport and funeral costs following the fire. The new statutory instrument which has now come into force amends the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013; specifically, Regulation 24 (disregards when assessing gross or disposable income) and Regulation 40 (disregards when assessing disposable capital). The amendments add a new disregard to both lists. The new disregard set out under Regulations 24(3) and 40(2) covers payments made to victims of the fire at Grenfell Tower, so long as the payment is provided because they are victims of the fire (rather than because, for example, it is their birthday or it is an entitlement such as their usual payment of state benefit) and is not made by someone ‘known personally’ to the legal aid applicant.
The discretionary disregard can cover payments such as those from the Government’s Grenfell Tower Resident’s Discretionary Fund (DF) as well as those from other charities such as the London Emergencies Trust. The disregard does not cover payments made to the victim by family and friends. The discretion to disregard payments will apply for all types of civil legal aid applications where eligibility is means tested, as opposed to applications solely concerning legal issues associated with the fire (e.g. assistance in relation to a homelessness application).”
It is to be hoped that this discretionary disregard will be applied in all cases relevant to any legal action taken by the victims of this terrible tragedy.