One of the biggest benefits that clients have told us about when they use legal aid is that they feel that someone ‘independent’ is on their side. By the time someone instructs a solicitor they, and their support worker, friend or carer have often spent many stressful weeks trying to get someone in authority to listen.
Part of this is because we have to really consider the details of your case to check that it ‘fits’ the legal aid definition of work we can do in this area and we must believe – and be able to show – that your case has merits, in particular that it can make a difference to your circumstances.
Community care cases are often very time pressured as you (or your client) will be in or facing an imminent crisis (for example, we recently had to act to stop a significant care package being cancelled within 5 days, which would have put our client at huge risk). Contact us as soon as possible for initial guidance – we can establish whether legal aid is appropriate or discuss other options.
There are two types of legal aid available to tackle community care issues:
Legal Help: For work that focuses on legal advice and representation before a matter gets to Court. The funding available covers approximately 5½ hours of work by a solicitor. Examples of successes in this area include challenges to local authority financial assessments and cuts to care packages (under the Care Act 2014 and Section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983) and support and representation for carers.
Legal Representation: More comprehensive than Legal Help, the funding under this level of legal aid includes taking a matter to Court. This involves many more hours of work by your solicitor and may also include instructing a barrister to represent you at Court. This has most commonly been used (by us, so far) to challenge Deprivation of Liberty Authorisations. Successes have included enabling individuals to move back to their own home or to move to a care home that is more suitable for their particular care needs.