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Changes to the Help with Fees court remission scheme aim to help more people access justice

Earlier this year The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) launched a consultation on reforms to the Help with Fees remission scheme for court and tribunal fees. It was considered that the regime was outdated, particularly so in the face of the rising cost of living. 

The regime has now changed, around 10 years since the scheme was introduced. The changes took effect on 27 November and mean that more people will potentially be eligible for fee remission.

Where the scheme applies

The system applies to all courts and tribunals in England and Wales. Individuals meeting certain criteria can be eligible for a full or partial discount of a court or tribunal fee. The criteria relate to an individual’s financial circumstances and specifically, to their income and amount of savings (capital).

What are the changes and how do they affect people?

One of the key aims of the reforms was to help support those on lower incomes access the justice system. The new changes include the following:

  • New income thresholds. Under the previous scheme, the gross monthly income threshold was £1,170 for a single applicant without children, which amounted to an annual income of £14,040. This was far below the current gross annual salary for a person earning the National Living Wage working 40 hours per week. The new threshold has increased to £1,420 for someone that is single without children.
  • Changes to the list of income excluded from calculation under the scheme.
  • Applicants can now use three-month average earnings for the income test. Previously, it wasn't clear on how those with irregular income should be assessed. This meant that some applicants were at a disadvantage, for example when they had to make an application after a month where earnings are skewed, perhaps because of bonuses, where monthly earnings wouldn't be a fair representation of an average month for the year. 
  • Changes to the definition of “disposable capital” and setting out more clearly what is defined as “savings and investments”.
  • Updates to the list of capital excluded from calculation under the scheme. For example, household furniture and articles of personal clothing are removed from the list of excluded disposable capital.
  • Changes to the method of calculating eligibility for partial fee remission.
  • Changes to the capital threshold age cap from 61to 66 to reflect that there have been major changes to state pension age since the scheme was introduced. 
  • Changes to the application forms to expressly permit legal representatives and litigation friends to confirm and sign on an applicant’s behalf.
  • A new deadline to provide evidence in support of an application within 28 days of the court requesting this. If this isn't sent in time, the guidance states that the application will be treated as abandoned and won't be processed further and that a new application for the court or tribunal to consider. It's unclear whether if this deadline is missed, whether the overall three month time limit will effectively “start again”. It's probably safest to assume that it wouldn't and that this would be at the court’s discretion. 

The government state that the changes will mean that the most vulnerable in society will be better supported to access justice. 


It's hoped that the changes will allow greater access to justice, particularly for those who are really struggling with increased living costs. However, the government will need to keep this under more regular review to make sure that we don't get into the same position again with income thresholds and average earnings being so out of touch. 

Time will tell if these changes will also help to simplify and speed up the process for court fee remissions, which are currently taking several months to process in the majority of cases due to backlogs generally with the courts. 

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's work in supporting access to justice.