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The Legal Aid Scheme is there to help people to:

  • protect their basic rights
  • get a fair hearing
  • access the court process to sort out a dispute
  • solve a problem that would contribute to social exclusion

The Scheme is funded by the Government. The Legal Aid Agency runs the Legal Aid Scheme in England and Wales.


The Legal Aid Agency

The Ministry of Justice oversees the work of the Legal Aid Agency. Its annual legal budget is set by the Treasury.


The Legal Aid Agency funds solicitors and advice agencies to:

  • advise people on legal problems (such as family breakdown, debt and eviction)
  • help people to understand their rights and the law
  • represent people in court (if necessary)


The Legal Aid Agency awards legal aid to people who meet certain conditions:

  • financial means
  • legal merit tests laid down by Parliament

A Funding Code sets out what help the Legal Aid Agency can provide and its requirements.


Financial eligibility tests look at income and capital.


The legal merit tests looks at factors such as the case’s likelihood of success. 



A person may be asked to pay some of the costs of their case. This is means-tested.


If someone wins money or property in a civil case, they may be asked to repay some of their legal costs. This is called the statutory charge.


If they do not have the means to pay immediately, they can arrange to pay it in instalments over time or opt for the statutory charge to be placed on the property (this means that the money can be reclaimed when the property is sold or becomes part of an estate after their death).


Civil Legal Aid

You can apply for civil legal aid from legal advisers who have a contract to provide legal assistance in the area of law you are looking for assistance on. These advisers have met quality standards set by the Legal Aid Agency and have a contract with it to provide legal aid services. South West London Law Centres has contracts to provide assistance with housing, community care, public law, immigration and asylum matters.