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The financial assessment - general principles

The law centre is responsible for means testing. Only persons who are financially eligible or whose applications have been passported should have their names placed on an applications record.

Each managing solicitor is responsible for ensuring that arrangements are in place in their law centre to achieve this objective.

The relevant date for the purpose of determining financial eligibility is the date of receipt of a fully completed application for legal services form.

A formal assessment of financial eligibility, or a decision that the applicant is eligible for passporting, must be made before legal services are provided. The exceptions to this rule include:-

  • an application for an emergency legal aid certificate; and
  • cases under Section 28 of the Act, e.g. certain child abduction and “rape” cases.
    potential victims of human trafficking who are being provided with legal advice on foot of a referral from GNIB.

A person, including one whose application was initially passported, may be reassessed at any time while in receipt of legal services.  That reassessment should be calculated on the basis of their income at the time of their anticipated income for the succeeding twelve months.  Further information is outlined in the “change in circumstances” paragraph.

The financial assessment consists of two parts:-

  • an income assessment; and
  • a capital assessment.

All applicants who are not otherwise excepted (either by being passported, or by virtue of falling into one of three categories above) must be assessed to determine their disposable income. However, only applicants with capital assets in excess of €4,000 are subject to a capital assessment. The capital assessment is dealt with towards the end of this chapter.

Time period for financial assessment

The Regulations provide that the time period for the purposes of a financial assessment is the twelve month period following the date the person signed the application form. For example if the person has dated the application form 1st June 2018, the relevant period is from 1st June 2018 to 30th May 2019.

The Regulations also provide that if there is no way (in the opinion of the Board) to satisfactorily determine the income of the applicant, then the Board may assess the applicant by reference to the previous twelve months. This should be done, for example, in cases where a person is self-employed, where the previous Notice of Assessment or audited accounts may be used to make a determination.

Any queries regarding the appropriate period for the purposes of a financial assessment should be directed to Legal Services.

Statement of means and assets

The application form must:-

  • be completed fully and properly in all cases before an assessment is undertaken;
  • include details of all relevant income and capital and relevant expenditure and debts;
  • be returned to the applicant if it is not complete; the deficiencies should be highlighted and explained in a covering/standard letter (Chapter 3)
                                                  

The Regulations provide for two aspects to determining financial eligibility, namely a determination of income and capital and of the allowances/debts that may be offset against income/capital for the purpose of arriving at disposable income/disposable capital.

Backing documentation

Proof of income must be supplied as per the table below: 

Social Welfare/Direct Provision  payments Evidence of payment: i.e. social welfare receipt, social welfare book, IPO Card or letter from Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection confirming eligibility for payment.
Employment (including CES) Payslip (but in January and February, a Form P60 may be requested instead of a payslip if the law centre considers it necessary. A Form P60 may also be requested at any time of year for hourly paid employees working varied hours whose payslip does not give cumulative details of their pay or taxes to date.)
Business (sole trader/partnership) Notice of Assessment from Revenue – Irish Tax and Customs, or in the absence of this, audited accounts.

However it should be noted that the Board maintains the right to ask any applicant (including a passported applicant) to vouch their means in cases where it considers this to be necessary and law centres and/or Legal Services may from time to time, at random or otherwise, select particular applicants to provide full backing documentation according to criteria which may be determined by management from time to time.

A law centre, should, unless it has reason to believe otherwise, assess an applicant in good faith based on the details provided to the law centre on the application form. If the law centre has reason to believe that the details provided on the application form are inaccurate, the law centre must request that an applicant provide full backing documentation as detailed above.

Financial assessment – online application pilot

The online application will not do the financial assessment for you.  You will need to print the PDF application form and use it to complete the Means Test Form on EOS.