From April 2013, claimants will only be able to get legal aid to fight cases once they have lost at appeal and the tribunal judge is prepared to admit that they got the decision wrong, the government has revealed.

During the House of Commons consideration of the House of Lords amendments stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, Jeremy Wright, Parliamentary under-Secretary of State for Justice confirmed that the government will make legal aid available for welfare benefit cases at first-tier tribunals where the first-tier tribunal has identified an error of law in its own decision.

Legal aid will be available to make representations when invited by the tribunal, and for applications to set aside decisions that have been reviewed and a party to the proceedings has not been given the opportunity to make representations.

Given that tribunal judges rarely grant leave to appeal against their own decisions and appellants generally have to then apply directly to the Upper Tribunal for leave to appeal, the amendment to the Act will be largely ineffectual for benefit claimants.

More information can be found here


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