Exceptional Case Funding (ECF)

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’) removed civil legal aid from many areas of law in April 2013. LASPO also introduced Exceptional Case Funding, which was meant to act as a ‘safety net’ to ensure that funding would still be available if needed to ensure that an individual’s rights would not be breached. PLP’s Exceptional Funding Project has been running since April 2013, providing advice and assistance to people who wish to apply to the Legal Aid Agency for Exceptional Case Funding. We have assisted with applications for Exceptional Case Funding in a broad range of matters, including immigration, family and welfare benefits cases. You can find further information about ECF and the Exceptional Funding Project here.

PLP has also been instructed to bring judicial review challenges to the Legal Aid Agency’s Exceptional Case Funding decision-making. Of particular note is the case of IS, in which PLP were instructed by the Official Solicitor to challenge the refusal to grant Exceptional Case Funding to an incapacitated individual, and challenge the way in which the Exceptional Case Funding scheme was operating. IS was one of several claimants in Gudanaviciene and ors v Director of Legal Aid Casework and the Lord Chancellor [2014] Civ 1622 (Admin) which established that the guidance followed by decision-makers was unlawfully restrictive and that Exceptional Case Funding can be available for immigration matters. The systemic challenge (I.S.(by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Director of Legal Aid Casework and the Lord Chancellor [2015] EWHC 1965 (Admin)) established that the Exceptional Case Funding scheme was operating unlawfully as it gave rise to an unacceptable risk that an individual would not obtain funding where a failure to do so would breach her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights or under EU law.

The basis of judicial review rests in the free-standing principle that every action of a public body must be justified by law…

Laws LJ in R (Beeson) v Dorset County Council [2003]