Legal aid: apply for exceptional case funding

Overview, how to apply, where to send paperwork and how long the exceptional case funding (ECF) process takes.


Sometimes people can get legal aid even though their case is not in the scope of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

This is known as exceptional case funding (ECF). An ECF team within the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) deals with these cases.

To qualify for ECF, you must meet the ECF criteria as set out in LASPO and described in the Lord Chancellor’s funding guidance.

You must also be financially eligible for legal aid and your case must meet the merits criteria to qualify.

You may apply for ECF to enable you to provide legal help to investigate the possibility of a client applying for ECF.

For providers with a civil contract and access to CCMS applications for exceptional funding for licensed work should be submitted using CCMS. For controlled work, for individual case contracts, fill in the form CIV ECF1. You will also need to provide details of your client’s financial circumstances.

More details about ECF are available for non-inquests in the provider information pack and for inquests in the inquest provider information pack.

A client can also apply directly for ECF.

Evidence and checklist

Make sure all the appropriate evidence is sent with the forms. Do the simple checklist. Both are explained on the form.

More information

Read the Lord Chancellor’s funding guidance.

How to apply - for the public

You can apply directly to the Exceptional Case Funding team at the Legal Aid Agency. You don’t have to name a solicitor in the application.

How to apply

The forms are designed to help you provide the right information in your legal aid application, but you don’t have to use them. You must sign your application, whatever format you have made it in.

The CIV ECF1 form asks questions about why you’re applying for exceptional case funding. The means and merits forms ask questions about your financial circumstances and your case. If you have questions about which form to use, phone us or email the Exceptional Case Funding Team(ECF).

As a minimum, send the following to us in writing:

  1. Background to your case, including all the main facts.
  2. What you need legal advice on or what court proceedings you need representation in. Explain why you cannot represent yourself.
  3. What outcome you wish to achieve.
  4. Information that will support your application eg court applications and orders, expert and medical reports, copies of any decisions you wish to challenge.
  5. Information on your financial situation.

We cannot give you legal advice on the merits of your underlying case but we will consider your application.

What happens next?

We’ll send you a decision in writing. If we approve your application, you’ll still need to find a legal adviser to take on your case, and your adviser will need to contact us to confirm this.

We have the right to change our decision either way if, for example, we receive new information or evidence. Whatever decision we make, you can seek help from a legal adviser.

Find a legal adviser

Where to send forms and applications

Exceptional Case Funding Team (ECF)
Legal Aid Agency (7.38)
102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ


DX: 161440 Westminster 8

Telephone: 0300 200 2020

When your application will be processed

Applications are usually processed within 20 working days.

If we agree a case is urgent, we will prioritise it and make a decision within 5 working days. You can tell us the case is urgent on the ECF1 form.

If your application is successful, funding can be backdated.

Published 1 June 2014
Last updated 24 July 2017 + show all updates
  1. Address updated.
  2. Information for clients included
  3. First published.