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Single mother’s case makes legal assistance reform ‘a top priority’

Legal assistance reforms are a “top priority”, Justice Minister Neil Costa has said following the recent case of single mother who was denied a publicly-funded lawyer because she owned a 50% stake in a government affordable house.

The reform of legal assistance has been on the cards for a long time with the Government poised to increase the eligibility threshold from £5,000, a sum set in 1990, to over £14,000.

This means, once introduced, people in full time employment and on minimum wage would be able to receive assistance.

The single mother in the recent earned less than £5,000 annually, but part-owned a flat in Waterport Terraces.

The court ‘sympathised’ with the woman and acknowledged that selling the flat would render her unable to apply for further Government housing.

After this newspaper revealed the case, the single mother was offered free legal services by two local law firms, and is now represented by Verralls Barristers and Solicitors.

She told the Chronicle she is very grateful for the offers of help during this particularly difficult situation that she had been fighting since March.

The reforms will see a widening of the scope of people granted legal assistance.

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