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Change in financial circumstances at a later date

Law centres are required to take note of any change in a person’s circumstances that impact on their financial eligibility. A person should, as a matter of course, be asked to advise if there has been any change and should be advised of the consequences of providing incorrect information. If the change is significant, the law centre may take action as detailed below:

The Regulations provide that the Board may:-

reassess the income and capital resources of an applicant; and
withdraw legal advice, or terminate legal aid where it considers that the legally aided person is no longer eligible for legal services on financial grounds.

Where a re-assessment is considered necessary, the person should be asked to complete the application form again and the law centre should re-assess them using EOS. The time period for the re-assessment of income is the twelve months following the date the re-assessment was directed.  The assessment must be conducted under the Regulations in place on the person’s original date of application.

The completed re-assessment should be forwarded to Legal Services who will take a decision whether or not:

  • the applicant should pay a higher income and/or capital contribution;
  • the applicant should pay the costs of the case as incurred; or
  • to terminate  the certificate under Regulation 9 (3) (d) (no longer eligible on financial grounds). In this case, the applicant is allowed a month to “show just cause” in writing as to why the certificate should not be terminated and during which period legal services should not be provided.

The “change in circumstances” procedure may be run at any time whilst the client is in receipt of legal services, should it become apparent to the law centre that the client’s financial circumstances (whether in relation to his/her income, or his/her capital resources, or both) have changed.

As a general principle we will not wish to continue to commit our resources in providing legal advice and aid services to persons who have become financially ineligible.  However, the power to terminate a legal aid certificate is discretionary. Decision makers may exercise their discretion not to terminate legal aid following a finding of financial ineligibility where:

  1. The law centre are on record and the case of the legally aided person  is at an advanced stage including that the case has been effectively prepared to the point where the case has been set down for hearing or is within 6 months of a hearing date and
  2. There is no question in the case of the applicant having deliberately failed to disclose resources at he time of the original application

When law centres are submitting requests for termination on the grounds of persons becoming financially ineligible they should address these matters for the benefit of decision makers.

Where a decision maker is satisfied that the applicant deliberately failed to disclose resources, then they may form an intention to revoke, rather than terminate the legal aid certificate.

The Circular on Legal Services contains more information on revocation and termination of legal aid certificates.

AAA.Change in circumstances letter

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Mr John Smith

1 Main Street

Ballymore,

Co. Dublin

22 October 2015

Our Ref: 1234567

RE:  LEGAL SERVICES

Dear Mr Smith,

[You have recently notified us of a change in your financial circumstances]/[A change in your financial circumstances has been brought to our attention. Explain reasons why change in financial circumstances has been brought to the law centre’s attention]. As your financial circumstances have changed, the Board has decided to re-assess your eligibility for legal services.

Please find enclosed our Application for Legal Services form along with note on how to complete. Please ensure that you complete Parts B & C under “Statement of Income and Assets” of this form fully. Do not answer Part A, even if it applies to you.

You should enclose, as appropriate an up-to-date payslip, social welfare receipt, or Notice of Assessment from Revenue.

Once we have received the application form along with backing documentation, we will re-assess your financial eligibility. We may then, dependent on the outcome, decide to:

•           take no action and proceed with your case as before;

•           [reduce your contribution and refund you the difference] (only within twelve months of date of application)

•           decide that you must pay a higher contribution; or

•           stop your legal aid, if it is found that you are no longer financially eligible.

We will contact you with the results of the re-assessment and our decision on how to proceed in due course.

Yours sincerely,

_____________

Jane Jones

Managing Solicitor

Change in financial circumstances resulting in a reduced contribution

There will be occasions where the applicant’s financial circumstances may worsen. Where this occurs in the first twelve months following the date of the person’s application for legal services, the following procedure should be followed:

The change in circumstances procedure should be run in the same way as it is run where the law centre becomes aware of an improvement in a person’s circumstances.
The complete reassessment should be forwarded to Legal Services, who may arrange for a refund of the difference between the contribution initially paid and the lower contribution.

No refund of contribution will be made on the basis of deterioration in circumstances after 12 months have passed since the date of application for legal services.

Circumstances where it is discovered that a client’s financial position is different from their statement of means

Circumstances may arise where it is considered that a client failed to disclose a source of income and/or a capital asset on their statement of means or capital. This may come to attention, for example, during the drafting and/or swearing of an affidavit of means. When an affidavit of means is sworn it should be compared with the applicant’s Application for Legal Services form at the earliest opportunity. If it deviates materially from the application form, the change in circumstances procedure must be followed.

The completed re-assessment should be forwarded to Legal Services who may take a decision as follows:

  • the applicant should pay a higher income and/or capital contribution;
  • the applicant should pay the costs of the case as incurred; or
  • the certificate should be revoked under Regulation 9 (4) (legally aided person has made an untrue statement as to his or her resources). In this case, the applicant is allowed a month to “show just cause” in writing as to why the certificate should not be terminated and during which period legal services should not be provided. Legal Services may decide to terminate rather than
  • revoke the certificate if the applicant can show that he or she used due care and diligence to avoid the mis-statement – i.e., that the failure to include a source of income/capital asset was not deliberate.