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Means test

Assessment criteria

For legal aid to be granted all applicants must meet the means test unless:

Documentary requirements

An applicant must provide Legal Aid Queensland with details regarding their financial circumstances, including all income and assets and information about the financial circumstances of anyone who provides financial help.

Legal Aid Queensland uses some or all of the following documentation to assess an applicants financial eligibility for aid depending on their circumstances:

  • copies of your pay slips and/or pay slips for anyone who helps you financially for the last four weeks (or a letter from the applicant’s employer saying how much the applicant is paid)
  • copies of Centrelink income statement
  • copies of bank account statements for the past three months from all financial institutions where there are accounts (official bank statements or printed electronic bank account statements are required. ATM receipts are not accepted)
  • details of any financial help received from financially associated person/s
  • details of assets owned or the assets of the financially associated person such as copies of statements for shares, bonds and superannuation.
  • if an applicant or an applicants financially associated person is self-employed, a small business owner or a farmer, the following information must be provided to Legal Aid Queensland:
  • individual and business tax returns for two years.
  • personal and business bank statements for the last three months.
  • the most recent income (or profit and loss) statement.
  • the most recent balance sheet.
  •  

When electronically lodging applications for aid practitioners must ensure that they retain copies of the client's payslips, bank statements and/or Centrelink income statement for audit purposes. If the client is temporarily in custody and it is not possible to obtain this documentation the practitioner must obtain this at the earliest available opportunity.

Some matters are deemed to be low risk by Legal Aid Queensland and may require less detailed verification for the purposes of determining financial eligibility. Higher risk matters required additional supporting material for the purposes of verification of financial eligibility and for some matters, material in addition to that listed above, may be requested.

Interpretation

What is 'financial help'?

Financial help is where another person regularly gives you money, helps pay your bills or shares your living expenses. This could be a relative, friend, or your current or former partner or spouse. If you are in dispute with a person you usually receive financial help from, we will not take their income and assets into account.

Means test special circumstances guidelines

Special consideration may be given to applicants who experience multiple disadvantages where their assets exceed the limit set out in the means test where the request for legal assistance meets the applicable guidelines and merits tests but the applicant would be excluded from approval of a grant because their assets exceed the thresholds set out in the means test.

In determining whether an applicant experiences multiple disadvantages, the assessing officer will consider whether the applicant meets any of the following criteria:

  • receives a full income tested government benefit or no income
  • 70 years or older
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • non-English-speaking background
  • have a physical, intellectual or psychiatric disability or long-standing ill health
  • experience literacy problems or limited educational background
  • experienced domestic or family violence
  • live in a remote area

Applicants in receipt of a Veterans' Pension

For the purposes of this policy applicants in receipt of a veterans pension are not deemed to be automatically eligible under the income test.

The income test will be applied in these matters unless the applicant is applying for aid to appeal:

  • war caused disability pension entitlement or assessment claims under Part II of the Veterans Entitlements Act 1986, or
  • a claim under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) that relate to warlike or non-warlike service.

Financial verification for low risk matters

Low risk matters are:

  • Summary criminal law grants
  • Standard committal grants for in-custody applicants
  • Initial family law applications for dispute resolution conferencing only
  • Initial child protection applications (up to contested hearing)
  • Initial domestic violence applications

If a low risk family or civil law matter generates a further request to proceed to a more expensive stage or a criminal law matter generates an expensive case request further financial eligibility testing will be undertaken.

Under this process for low risk matters, LAQ requires the following:

  • The request for aid meets the applicable guidelines and merits tests applied to the particular category of application.
  • All clients must fully complete all of the required financial eligibility details on the application form and sign the application form.
  • Clients not in custody must provide evidence of their full Centrelink Benefit in the form of a current Centrelink Income statement for themselves and any financially associated person.
  • In-custody applicants should indicate on the form if they were in receipt of a full Centrelink benefit prior to being remanded in custody. (For example "Previously received Newstart allowance").
  • If the client discloses information on the form which raises questions regarding financial eligibility (for example significant assets) Grants will follow up and may request additional verification documentation from the client as necessary. In all other low risk instances, further verification material such as bank statements will not be required.

Low Risk Category Matters Matrix

Only applicable where the following criteria are met:

  • The request for aid meets the applicable guidelines and merits tests
  • All components of the financial eligibility section in the LAQ application form (including assets) are completed

 

  • Low risk matter type

    In-custody* or Remote**

    Reliant on full Centrelink pension for income

    Verification requirements

    Summary criminal law grants

    Yes

    No

    Nil

    No

    Yes

    Centrelink Income Statement (applicant and financially associated persons)

    No

    No

    Full verification*** (applicant and financially associated persons)

    Standard committal grants for in-custody applicants

    Yes

    No

    Nil

    No

    Yes

    Full verification (applicant and financially associated persons)

    No

    No

    Full verification (applicant and financially associated persons)

    Initial family law applications for dispute resolution conferences

    Yes

    No

    Nil

    No

    Yes

    Centrelink Income Statement (applicant and financially associated persons)

    No

    No

    Full verification (applicant and financially associated persons)

    Initial child protection applications (up to contested hearing)

    Yes

    No

    Nil

    No

    Yes

    Centrelink Income Statement (applicant and financially associated persons)

    No

    No

    Full verification (applicant and financially associated persons)

    Initial domestic violence applications

    Yes

    No

    Nil

    No

    Yes

    Centrelink Income Statement (applicant and financially associated persons)

    No

    No

    Full verification (applicant and financially associated persons)

     

    * In-custody means:

    • On remand (and immediately prior to remand was reliant on full Centrelink benefit);
    • Sentenced (and immediately prior to sentence was reliant on full Centrelink benefit);
    • Recently released from Corrective Services custody with a pending Centrelink assessment (evidence from Centrelink).

     

    ** Remote means:

    • Matters listed in very remote circuit courts where client's access to internet or Government services is restricted. These courts are largely serviced by in-house duty lawyers.

     

    *** Full verification (for applicant and financially associated person) means:

    • Centrelink Income Statement (indicating part pension payments, rental assistance etc.)
    • Payslips for the last four weeks
    • Bank statements for all accounts for the last three months
    • Any other relevant financial documentation (e.g. details of assets, small business / self-employed financial records) - see Grants Handbook Means Test section for full details.

Decision makers of a higher delegation

Applications for aid that are to be considered under the means test special circumstance guidelines will be referred to a grants manager for determination.

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