The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell, TD has signed into law new Regulations - the Civil Legal Aid Regulations, 2006 - which update and streamline the means test for qualifying for Civil Legal Aid. The Regulations come into effect from, tomorrow, 1 September 2006.
Under these new Regulations the income limits and allowances which govern eligibility for legal aid have all been increased significantly. For example the upper disposable income limit has been increased from Euro 13,000 to Euro 18,000 and the allowance for a dependant spouse has been increased from Euro 1,900 to Euro 3,500. The allowances for vouched expenditure on accommodation and child-care have also been increased substantially.
In addition, the new Regulations greatly simplify the mechanism for assessing capital assets and provide that the value of a person's family home will be entirely excluded from this calculation. Under the old Regulations the value of a family home could in some circumstances be taken into account.
"These new regulations are further evidence of my commitment to the delivery of an accessible and fair civil legal aid system ", the Minister said. "I have increased funding for the scheme significantly in recent years and the Board has made excellent use of these resources in order to tackle waiting lists and improve the service it provides to its clients. These increased income limits will ensure that the Scheme continues to provide effective access to legal advice and representation to persons on lower incomes."
31 August 2006