More people will gain from legal aid programs with updated qualifying requirements: MinLaw

In view of recent improvements in household incomes and property values, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) will modify the qualifying requirements for legal aid, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law Rahayu Mahzam announced on March 1. During the Parliamentary debate on her ministry’s budget, Ms. Rahayu stated that the government is aiming to put these reforms into effect by the second quarter of 2024. According to MinLaw, more persons will be able to take advantage of the eligibility modifications for criminal defense and civil legal aid.


According to Ms. Rahayu, the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) will raise the $1,500 per capita household income requirement for criminal defense help to $1,650. The Legal Aid Bureau will raise the eligibility threshold for civil legal aid from $950 to $1,050. Ms. Rahayu further stated that, in keeping with the Ministry of Finance’s adjustment of the threshold for social assistance schemes, the yearly residential property value requirements for both forms of help will likewise be raised from $13,000 to $21,000. She said, “This will cover all Housing Board flats.


A means test to ascertain whether a client has restricted financial means is one of the requirements. Flexibility will still be used for worthy instances, according to Ms. Rahayu. For example, a minister-appointed means test panel may examine and suggest that aid be given to applicants who, because of extraordinary circumstances, are unable to pay for basic legal services. On March 1, Minister of Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam gave a report on the PDO’s activities. He stated that as of December 2023, there were over 1,700 applications, nearly half of which were determined to be eligible for criminal defense assistance.


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