The Commonwealth merits test is one of the threshold issues which a person seeking assistance must satisfy for most Commonwealth law matters for which Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) may provide a grant of assistance.
If a person seeking a grant of assistance for a Commonwealth matter within the Commonwealth Legal Aid Guidelines has met the forum test and the means test (if it applies), then the person must usually also meet each of the following tests to satisfy the Commonwealth merits test:
If VLA exempts a person or matter from the Commonwealth merits test in any legal matter for which it provides a grant of assistance, then this is discussed in the guideline relating to the particular matter.
If VLA processes an application for a grant of assistance through its standard grants assessment process, then VLA’s assessment unit assesses and decides whether the person and their matter satisfy each relevant test within the Commonwealth merits test.
If VLA processes an application for a grant of assistance through its simplified grants assessment process, then, with one exception (detailed below), the person’s lawyer assesses whether the person and their matter satisfy each relevant test within the Commonwealth merits test.
The lawyer then recommends to VLA’s grants assessment unit that VLA should or should not provide a grant of assistance partly on the basis of their assessment. VLA will base its eventual decision in part on the lawyer’s recommendation.
If the person’s lawyer is assessing an application against ‘the appropriateness of spending limited public legal aid funds test’ within the Commonwealth merits test, and the application is based on only ‘the likely benefit to the community’, then the lawyer cannot decide whether the matter meets this particular test. Only VLA’s assessment unit may assess this.