Getting help to pay for legal advice about a civil (non-criminal) legal problem

If you have a legal problem, you may be able to get help to pay for legal advice. Here we explain what help you may be able to get if you have a non-criminal legal problem – that’s a problem to do with things like housing, debt, and discrimination. It will help you understand what legal aid is, when it is available and who can get it.
Money, card reader, cheque book on a table. Photo by Walter Scott
Getting help to pay for legal advice about a civil (non-criminal) legal problem

What is legal aid?

Legal aid is a government scheme to help you to pay for legal advice and help, representation and family mediation. Sometimes it can also pay for things like an expert’s opinion or court fees.

The rules about who can get legal aid and what for changed dramatically in 2013. But some people can still get legal aid. Before you decide to take action alone, find out if you can get legal aid to pay for a lawyer to help you.

Whether or not you can get legal aid depends on what legal problem you have, how much money you earn, any savings you have, what property you own, and your chances of success.

Step 1: check whether you are financially eligible for legal aid

You can find out if you might be able to get legal aid by using this online tool - check if you can get legal aid

Step 2: check whether it’s possible to get legal aid to pay for advice about your particular legal problem

Legal aid is only available for certain types of legal problems. Also, depending on your case it may not cover all the costs. So, be aware that you may have to pay for some of the costs upfront yourself or if you win money or property at the end of the case you may have to pay back some of the costs.

Housing problems

You may be able to get legal aid if:

  • Your landlord wants to re-possess your home.
  • You are at risk of losing your home because of mortgage arrears.
  • You are unlawfully evicted or threatened with unlawful eviction.
  • You are homeless or threatened with homelessness.
  • You rent your home and the condition of your home is causing a serious risk to the health or safety of you or a member of your family.
  • You are being taken to court by your landlord about allegations of anti-social behaviour.
  • You are being harassed by your landlord or by someone acting for your landlord (for example, a letting agent) and you want to take out an injunction against them.
  • You are applying for asylum support and your application includes a request for accommodation.

Debt problems

You may be able to get legal aid if:

  • You are at risk of losing your home because of mortgage arrears.
  • You are in debt and you are being taken to court by a creditor wanting to sell your home.
  • A creditor wants to make you bankrupt.


You may be able to get legal aid if you have been unlawfully discriminated against by someone who provides you with goods or services. For example, you might have a case against your landlord, a shop or hotel, or by an association (a group of people such as a sports club or political party), or by somebody who works for a public authority such as the police or the NHS. You may also be able to get legal aid if you have been unlawfully discriminated against at work or at school, college or university.

Discrimination is only unlawful when you are treated worse than other people because of a particular personal characteristic. The law calls these characteristics ‘protected characteristics’. They are:

  • Sex, including pregnancy or maternity, or whether you are married or single or in a civil partnership.
  • Race, including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin.
  • Disability (this means where you have a physical or mental health condition which has a substantial effect on your day to day activities, and which has lasted or is expected to last for a year or more).
  • Age (this includes being young as well as old).
  • Religion or belief (this includes having no religious beliefs).
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Gender reassignment or being on the way to gender reassignment.

Community care problems

Community care refers to social or health care provided or arranged for you by your local council or health authority.

You may be able to get legal aid if your local council is not providing you with the help that you need because of an illness or disability. For example, you may need help with personal care, services to enable you to remain in your own home, aids and adaptations in your home, direct payments, personal budgets, and support when leaving hospital.

You may also be able to get legal aid:

  • If you are unhappy with the care that you are getting in a residential or nursing home or a hospital.
  • To challenge the closure of a care home or hospital.
  • If there is a dispute between your council and the NHS about funding your care, including NHS continuing care.
  • For advice about Disabled Facilities Grants, for example if your council says you aren’t eligible for one and you want advice about whether their decision is legally correct.

Clinical (or medical) negligence

You may be able to get legal aid to claim compensation for clinical negligence if:

  • your child has suffered a brain injury resulting in severe disability during pregnancy, childbirth or in the first eight weeks of its life.

Clinical negligence is when a health professional causes you injury or damage because they did something they shouldn’t or didn’t do something they should.


You may be able to get legal aid for your child if they have special educational needs - this includes problems with transport, being out of school or being in a pupil referral unit.

Family law problems and domestic abuse

You may be able to get legal aid if you are suffering domestic abuse at home (to protect you and any children at risk), harassment from an ex, or forced marriage.

Legal aid is also available for family mediation.

You will be able to get legal aid if you are a parent and your child or children are involved in care proceedings. This is where the local council apply to the court for your children to be put in care.

For other family problems like divorce, finances on divorce, and working out child arrangements after you have separated you can only get legal aid if you have evidence of domestic abuse. We have another guide on this - see How to get legal aid for a family law problem.

Mental capacity

The Court of Protection make decisions on financial or welfare matters for people who can’t make decisions at the time they need to be made because they lack ‘mental capacity’. You may be able to get legal aid if the Court of Protection is going to decide whether:

  • you have the mental capacity to make a particular decision yourself,
  • to deprive you of your liberty under the Mental Capacity Act,
  • to appoint a deputy to make ongoing decisions for you,
  • to allow someone other than you to make a one-off decision on your behalf, or
  • to register a lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney.

Immigration and Asylum

The immigration and asylum system can be complex for anyone seeking to build a life in the UK. Legal aid is only available to help with certain types of asylum and immigration cases. These include:

  • Advice on seeking asylum or appealing a decision about your asylum.

  • Advice if you are an asylum seeker applying for accommodation.
  • Help if you are losing your accommodation because UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is refusing to support you or is withdrawing its support from you. 
  • Advice if you are a victim of domestic violence. 
  • Help if you are a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery.
  • Advic if you are challenging immigration detention.
  • If you are involved in Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) proceedings. 
  • If you are at risk and in fear of returning to your country of origin, you may be able to get legal aid for asylum and humanitarian protection cases. 


You may be able to get legal aid for advice and some help in relation to an inquest into the death of a member of your family. This can include situations where the death took place in prison, in police custody, in immigration detention or psychiatric care.

Judicial review

Judicial review is what the law calls a particular type of court case when a judge reviews a public body’s decision or action and decides whether or not it was lawful. Public bodies are organisations like your local council, a school, a police force or a government department.

Other problems

These are not the only legal problems you can get legal aid for, but they are probably the most common. Always ask your lawyer or advisor to check if your legal problem is covered.

Exceptional funding

This is funding outside the legal aid scheme’s normal rules. It is only available in very limited circumstances to people who have a good case, a low income and who otherwise wouldn’t get to benefit from their human rights. You may be able to get exceptional case funding for immigration, family and housing cases, as well as welfare benefits, disputes and coroner inquests. For more information about exceptional funding and how to apply for it, go to Exceptional case funding.

Step 3: get a solicitor and apply for legal aid

You apply for legal aid through a solicitor. You can find a solicitor that does legal aid work by going to Find a legal aid adviser or family mediator.

If the solicitor you contact says your legal problem isn’t covered by legal aid, it’s worth asking another solicitor for their view. The rules about what solicitors can and can’t advise on and help with paid for by legal aid are often quite complicated and there is a risk, because of this complexity, that you get incorrect advice. For this reason it’s important you speak to a solicitor who specialises in the area of law you want help with.

What to do if you cannot get legal aid for your problem

If you go through the three steps above and you are told you cannot get legal aid, try not to panic. There are other places you may be able to get help from. A good place to start is Advicenow’s Help Directory which explains more about the different organisations you can get legal help from, depending on your problem.

March 2024
About this guide

This guide was written and produced by Advicenow and updated thanks to funding from the Litigant in Person Support Strategy.

This guide was updated thanks to funding from the Ministry of Justice

Updated March 2024
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The information on here is extremely useful.

on the 14 / 11 / 2022

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