Cash from Grenfell emergency fund won’t deny victims access to legal aid, government confirms
Ministers have responded positively to a Law Society request for clarity about whether money from the emergency discretionary fund established for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will be taken into account when the government assesses means for legal aid.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire the government established a £5 million emergency Grenfell Tower residents’ discretionary fund and announced that those whose homes were destroyed would be given at least £5,500 from the emergency fund towards food and clothing. Residents received £500 in cash, with the remainder to be paid into their bank account.
The justice minister signed a statutory instrument giving the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) discretion to disregard the emergency payments made to residents from the government's £5 million emergency fund and from charitable sources.
Law Society president Joe Egan said: 'We are pleased that the effect of lump sum emergency payments on eligibility for legal aid has been addressed for the residents of Grenfell Tower.
'State funding is still available for some legal issues that people affected by the Grenfell fire are facing and we have been liaising with the Legal Aid Agency to ensure the emergency payments made to residents of Grenfell Tower - from government and charities - would not affect survivors’ eligibility for legal aid.
'Legal aid is a lifeline for the vulnerable. Early legal advice can help people sort out their problems and prevent them from having to rely on welfare support or involve the courts.
'Justice is an essential public service - equal to healthcare or education - that should be accessible to everyone. Legal aid cuts have fallen disproportionately on the most economically deprived, vulnerable members of society.
'The regulations tabled in parliament come into force today and give the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) wide discretion to disregard the emergency payments from means testing. This is vital as those who may most need legal aid are those who are most likely to have also received lump sum payments to help begin to rebuild their lives.
'The Law Society is working with North Kensington Law Centre, the Legal Aid Agency and the Ministry of Justice to provide further useful information on legal aid issues relating to Grenfell for solicitors and clients.'
See our guidance for solicitors on legal aid for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire
See our LASPO review