The Singapore Parliament passed a bill on Monday amending the Legal Aid and Advice Act to simplify financial determinations for providing legal aid and make it easier for individuals to receive aid.
Originally, individuals applying for legal aid had to pass a means threshold based on their disposable income and disposable capital, including an evaluation of savings, assets and other expenses.
The amendment changes several sections of the act including Section 8 of the act relating to the old evaluation methods, and it provides for evaluation based on a new means criteria to be prescribed in regulations made under the Act. The Senior Minister of State, Edwin Tong, said:
[The Ministry of Law] will adopt the Per Capita Household Income (PCHI) and the Annual Value (AV) of the applicant’s place of residence, savings, and investments as the new criteria to replace the current disposable income and current disposable capital criteria.
The Minister also commented that the amendment “will provide for greater flexibility and discretion for aid … [and] will allow us to provide aid in a more targeted manner, which would also achieve greater equity.” The change will result in less documentation required to be filed and expedite the process.
Twenty-five percent of households are currently eligible for aid, and, over the last 10 years, there were 97,100 applications. Half of the Legal Aid Bureau cases deal with marital matters and other types of common cases including probate, monetary disputes and enforcement of court orders.