UK government consults on proposed changes to Help with Fees remission scheme
Proposed changes aim to target financial assistance at those most in need
The Ministry of Justice launched a 12-week consultation on 7 March on proposed revisions to the ‘Help with Fees’ remission scheme, which aim to better support the most vulnerable in accessing justice. The UK government’s proposed changes are designed to expand the scheme to provide more robust support for those on lower incomes.
The scheme, which provides court and tribunal fees in cases where a person’s financial situation would limit their access to justice, provided in excess of £80 million in financial help to thousands of people in 2022 in cases ranging from family disputes, housing issues to personal injury claims. The scheme is applicable to all courts and tribunals in England and Wales, the UK Supreme Court and to tribunals with UK-wide jurisdiction.
The changes proposed in the consultation paper include raising the income thresholds for determining eligibility; revising the policy for calculating when and how partial fee remission applies; increasing the capital threshold age cap; increasing the lower capital threshold for determining eligibility; and simplifying the capital test.
More specifically, the proposed revisions to the income thresholds include varying the threshold according to different families and their circumstances. The examples provided are as follows: for a couple with two children under 14, the monthly income threshold would increase from £1,875 per month to £2,980; and for a single person with no children the threshold would increase from, £1,170 per month to £1,420. Additionally, it is also proposed that the scheme should take into account the costs associated with looking after a child aged over 14.
Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Justice Minister, Mike Freer, said: “We recognise this is a challenging time financially for people across the country so it is vital we continue to ensure everyone can afford justice. The Help with Fees scheme has helped thousands of vulnerable people to pay court fees since its inception in 2013 and our reforms will make the scheme more generous and targeted at those who need it most.”
Alongside the publication of the consultation document entitled ‘Revising the “Help with Fees” remission scheme – protecting and enhancing access to justice,’ the government has also published an equalities statement and an impact assessment. The consultation closes on 30 May 2023.