When you need help either understanding the law or obtaining legal assistance, there is often one hurdle in the way. The costs involved. Not everyone is in a financial position where they can afford to pay for the services or advice from a solicitor. However, if you know your way around, there are numerous sources of free legal advice, and even free legal help.
Unfortunately, legal aid is becoming harder to obtain owing to government cutbacks. As a consequence, fewer firms are now offering legal aid services.
However, legal aid is still available. To qualify, you must earn less than £2,675 per month, gross and have a net disposable income (after paying rent/mortgage and bills) of less than £733 per month. You must also have assets/savings of a value that is less than £8,000 or £3,000 if you are an asylum seeker. You will have to provide details of your finances.
What does legal aid cover?
It is perhaps easier to indicate what legal aid is not available for, which is trivial legal matters, like a speeding fine.
Areas of the law which legal aid covers include:
- Asylum cases – where you are seeking asylum or have been the victim of illegal people trafficking.
- Clinical negligence – this is a very limited field which applies to children who have suffered a brain injury during pregnancy, at birth or within the first eight post-natal weeks.
- Community care – for those who have suffered from abuse or neglect in care or nursing homes or hospitals. Disputes over the quality of care can also be included.
- Crime – as mentioned, apart from trivial cases, most defendants in criminal cases can benefit from legal aid, subject to financial criteria.
- Debt – bankruptcy or debt, which threatens your ability to keep your home are suitable cases for legal aid.
- Discrimination – there is no room for discrimination in today’s society. Consequently, legal aid may be available if you have been discriminated against because of your sex, age, sexual orientation, race, religion, or any disability, though this is not the complete list. Instances of harassment can also qualify for legal aid.
- Education – cases involving children with special needs which are not being met can have access to legal aid.
- Family – forced marriages and the threat of removal of your children from the UK qualify for legal aid.
What if you do not qualify for legal aid?
If you cannot get legal aid, there are three organisations which provide free legal advice:
- LawWorks – which is a charity that acts as a middleman, connecting volunteer lawyers with people in need of legal advice who cannot get legal aid.
- Advocate – This is similar to LawWorks and is the official Bar national charity which works with barristers to provide legal help.
- Law Centres Network – this network comprises not-for-profit offices which provide legal advice and representation on matters which relate to local communities and welfare law.
The beauty of providing legal advice is that you do not have to be a qualified solicitor. Consequently, there are numerous organisations throughout the UK which provide a wealth of information across numerous aspects of the law.
The following are a few examples of these organisations:
- If you need advice on divorce or separation matters, then Resolution will be able to help you.
- For money and debt problems, the Money Advice Service offers free and impartial advice on money matters. Alternatively, there is the Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Advice relating to senior citizens – Age UK is a UK charity which helps to provide advice and point you in the right direction if you need further help.
- Check your home insurance policy, as many policies also cover legal costs for a variety of issues.
- Pro bono legal services (legal services offered for free) are provided by many firms of solicitors, especially if the case involves a potential miscarriage of justice.
Sometimes you know you need legal advice, but you do not know what type of legal specialist you need. Qredible.co.uk also offers a free service which includes providing you with a list of appropriate solicitors in your area who will be able to help you.
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