Another 300,000 people to benefit from legal aid from July 1

Another 300,000 people will benefit when amendments to the Legal Aid and Advice Act take effect on Monday.

The amendments will extend legal aid to more Singaporeans and permanent residents, enabling greater access to justice to those who need, but cannot afford basic legal services, said the Ministry of Law in a press statement on Sunday.

Currently, those that apply for legal aid have to pass the means test and the merit test.

Tweaks have been made to the means test, which requires an applicant's annual income to be $10,000 or less. It will now be easier to meet this criterium.

For instance, the main applicant can now deduct up to $6,000 in living expenses, up from the previous cap of $4,500. Deductibles for his spouse, or dependants, has also been raised from $3,500 to $6,000.

Furthermore, new deductibles have been created for calculating disposable capital, such as the surrender value of life insurance policies of up to $46,000.

To foster greater self-ownership of legal aid cases, applicants will have to pay a contribution to the Legal Aid Bureau from July 1. The quantum of contribution payable will be based on their financial means and extent of work done by the Legal Aid Bureau.

All applicants who are granted legal aid will be subjected to third-party casino exclusion from August 1.

The amendments were passed in February this year.