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CLA Gateway

This content applies to England & Wales

Gateway work on civil matters (ie debt, education, employment, family and housing) is provided by Civil Legal Advice (CLA) - formerly Community Legal Advice (CLA). The CLA is a national advice line funded by legal aid and operated by authorised contractors.

CLA will assess clients' initial financial eligibility and that their problems are covered by civil legal aid (ie within scope). It will then provide legal help over the phone or online. When appropriate, it will refer eligible clients to specialist CLA advisers to deal with their problems.

Mandatory gateway

Unless they are ‘exempt persons’ (see below), clients with a problem in the following areas of law must access civil legal aid through CLA:

  • debt, including mortgage repossession
  • discrimination
  • education.

When appropriate, CLA may refer a client for face-to-face advice and provide the client with a CLA reference number that must be annotated on the client's file.

Voluntary gateway

Clients with a problem in other areas of civil law, such as housing (including homelessness and possession of rented property), benefit appeals, or help and advice if the client is a victim of domestic violence, can either contact CLA or a face-to-face legal aid provider with a contract in the relevant area of law.

CLA advisers are trained to provide information on any issue, but free specialist advice is only available to those eligible for legal aid with issues covered by legal aid. These are: debt (including mortgage repossession), special educational needs, employment, family (including issues around a child being taken into care), housing (including homelessness and possession of rented property), or welfare benefits (only with regard to appeals before the Upper Tribunal or higher court). Eligible clients in these areas will be given advice primarily by phone or online. If clients are in need of Legal Representation they will be referred for face-to-face advice.

When appropriate, CLA will refer the client on to a legal aid provider with a contract in the relevant category of law.

Exempt persons

The following categories of people are exempt from the mandatory gateway and can approach a legal aid provider directly:

  • children under the age of 18
  • people deprived of liberty, for example those in prison or detained under immigration law
  • people assessed by CLA within the previous 12 months as needing face-to-face advice with the same or linked, problem.

A legal aid provider with a contract in the relevant category of law who is approached directly by an eligible exempt person can provide her/him with civil legal aid services directly.

Accessing CLA

The CLA advice service can be accessed in the following ways:

Online

CLA can be accessed online.

People in need of legal aid services will be asked to fill in an online form providing their contact details, their personal circumstances and financial information, and particulars of their legal problems.

A secure 'My advice' account will be created where clients can view the information they have provided to CLA and exchange messages about their case with an adviser.

By telephone

The CLA telephone advice service can be contacted by:

  • Telephone: 0845 345 4 345
  • Minicom: 0845 609 6677

Lines are open:

  • Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm
  • Saturday 9am to 12:30pm

Calls cost 4p a minute from a BT landline. Mobile calls usually cost more.

Call back service

Applicants who cannot afford to call CLA can text ‘legalaid’ giving their name to 80010 in order to be called back. Alternatively, they can book a call back online.

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