2024 Standard Civil Contract

Resolution’s response to the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).

Resolution has responded to the Legal Aid Agency’s (LAA’s) consultation on the new contract which will start on 1 September 2024.

Contract amendments are not expected to be extensive as the LAA will await the recommendations of the Review of Civil Legal Aid (expected in 2024) before considering whether more significant changes need to be made.

This response has been prepared by Resolution’s Legal Aid Committee. We comment on some of the proposed changes and make some additional requests on behalf of our members.

Led by the Legal Aid Committee, the following points in relation to family law and family mediation were made:

  • That although we acknowledge increasing fees is beyond the scope of the consultation, that is what needs to be done to ensure existing providers are able to continue with contracts, and to encourage new entrants.
  • It would be helpful if the LAA would revisit its processes and requirements for signatures so that wet signatures are no longer required on indemnity forms for firms that are not traditional partnerships.
  • We welcomed a proposed amendment to clarify that a provider may self-grant matter starts up to 50% of its original allocation ‘on any number of occasions’.
  • We welcomed a proposed amendment to allow an individual who is working full time to supervise more than one category of law (subject to them meeting the relevant supervisor requirements). We asked for clarification that this would include both family and crime.
  • We welcomed a proposed amendment to remove the requirement to provide an example of a case involving human rights as not relevant to all categories of law.
  • We request an amendment to clause 2.19b) which requires a supervisor to complete training covering key supervisory skills if they have not supervised one FTE caseworker for the equivalent of 12 months in the preceding 5 years. The problem with the clause is that if someone is self-supervising and does not ever supervise anyone else, they have to do a supervision course every year. We suggested self-supervisors should only need to do a supervision course once during the typical life of a contract.
  • The LAA is proposing to amend the clause to give providers more discretion in how to deliver supervision. This is welcome in principle as feedback has been received that it causes practical difficulties due to, e.g., court commitments, and is particularly difficult during holiday periods. We requested confirmation that this would apply to both frequency and location (currently once a month face to face meeting).
  • We welcomed a proposal to remove a restriction on the number of offices an individual can supervise.
  • We asked for the supervisor forms to be clarified so that it is clear that an individual can qualify on the basis of their own casework alone and does not have to have done supervision, file review, delivered training or produced publications etc.
  • The LAA is proposing that residential premises should be explicitly excluded as acceptable schedule offices. We did not support this change and asked that the LAA should look ahead and move quickly to modernise and work with developing ways of modern working in time for 2025 and beyond.
  • We welcomed a proposal that for clarification that serviced offices are acceptable. We asked for further clarification that the presence of a general building receptionist would be acceptable as a ‘representative of your organisation, whether employed by you or not’.
  • We asked the LAA to review its systems and processes for client signatures to reflect the trend away from clients attending offices in person and the greater flexibility allowed by technology. We asked that the LAA should remove the limit on the percentage of forms that are signed remotely.
  • We asked that the LAA should assess a claim from the first provider as a final claim at the time a certificate is transferred.
  • We asked that in private family law, the conditions for level 2 should be two meetings (by phone, video or in person), each at least 24 minutes long.
  • We asked that solicitors should be able to claim 100% of FAS fees after hearings, and that FAS fees should be claimable when a hearing is vacated/cancelled if a hearing is vacated by consent, after an AVM, as Counsel can.
  • We asked that the number of conference fees should be increased to reflect how children cases are now run.

June 2023

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