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Policy Bulletin 4 / 17 (Means Test - verification of means)

26 Jul 2017

The Legal Aid NSW Board has approved changes to the Legal Aid NSW Means Test to expand the category of applicants who are exempt from having to verify their means.

Background

The Client Service Strategy recognised that simplifying the verification of means is an important step in helping clients with the grant application process.

In response to this Legal Aid NSW has reviewed the policies applied by other legal aid commissions and analysed the financial data of applicants, to identify ways to improve the current approach to the verification of means.

A key finding was that 46% of eligible applicants for legal aid already received a maximum Centrelink benefit and 70% of these applicants disclosed zero cash assets, with only 2% disclosing cash of $1500 or more. For these applicants it is onerous and an unnecessary duplication to also undertake verification of means for aid.

Another key finding is that 40% of clients facing summary charges are in custody when they apply for legal aid for their matter. These summary crime matters are high volume, short duration and low cost and it is impractical and difficult for clients that each request to waive verification is considered on a case-by-case basis.


What has changed?

The change has expanded the circumstances where verification of means is not required, to include the following applicants:

  • Centrelink beneficiaries
    • The applicant and any financially associated person is receiving a Centrelink income support payment, and
    • The total amount held in all bank accounts disclosed is $1500 or less.
  • Local Court criminal matters
    • The applicant is in custody and has applied for a grant of legal aid for a Local Court summary hearing (excludes committals), and
    • The total amount held in all bank accounts disclosed, is $1500 or less, and any financially associated person is receiving a Centrelink income support payment.


Where do I find the changes?

See Policy Online Means Test at 7.11.4.

Commencement date

The change applies to applications for legal aid determined on or after 24 July 2017.


Contact for further information

Please contact the Legal Policy Branch for any questions about the change on legalpolicy@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or contact Aideen McGarrigle on 9219 5701.