Legal aid funding needed now more than ever
We welcome the House of Commons Justice Committee report on the future of legal aid, which shines a light on the problems blighting the legal aid system.
This page has the latest information and resources for legal aid practitioners who are working through the coronavirus pandemic. It includes support from the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and other organisations, as well as our own guidance and tools. We’ll update this page as we receive more information.
We're continuing to push for further guidance and clarification, particularly about:
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The LAA has published a contingency response.
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has published information on the financial support available.
While there’s no new support for civil legal aid providers, this tells you what options already exist including:
Since the beginning of lockdown, we’ve been lobbying for an increase in the number of times payments on account can be claimed. The LAA is now consulting on extending the number of times that payments on account can be claimed from two to four times in 12 months.
There have been some minor changes to provide additional support for criminal legal aid providers.
Payments in criminal cases information includes:
The LAA has clarified that these claims can be made following one of these stages in the proceedings:
Our business continuity toolkit includes an online tool to help you navigate the government's financial support packages and decide which would be right for you and your firm. There are also tips to preserve your cashflow and guidance for law firms on the job retention scheme.
We’ve updated our guidance on furloughing to reflect the changes announced recently, including details of flexible/part-time furloughing.
See also the latest government guidance.
The LAA has published billing guidance for legal aid providers working remotely, including fees for:
The LAA has also published guidance drafted jointly with HMCTS setting out how the Family Advocacy Scheme will operate in light of the significant increase in remote family hearings.
The LAA has provided guidance on the movement of billing onto electronic forms and other processing and payments. This includes:
The majority of court assessed bills will be moving in-house to the LAA.
The LAA has published guidance for solicitors on how this will operate, including detailed CCMS guidance. HMCTS will retain responsibility for assessing any contested Inter Partes claims.
The LAA has provided guidance on working with clients and making applications. It includes information about:
The following changes apply to the guidance in relation to evidence of both domestic violence and child abuse:
Additional amendments to the regulations not related to the pandemic were made on the 15 May 2020.
The supporting documents acceptable as evidence of domestic abuse are extended to:
Schedule 1 (14): “A letter from an independent domestic violence advisor confirming that they are providing or have provided support to A.”
Schedule 1 (15): “A letter from an independent sexual violence advisor confirming that they are providing or have provided support to A relating to sexual violence by B.”
(1) a letter from an organisation providing domestic violence support services.
(2) The letter must confirm that it:
(a) is situated in the United Kingdom [formerly restricted to England and Wales];
(b) that the organisation has been operating for an uninterrupted period of six months or more; and
(c) provided A with support in relation to A’s needs as a victim, or person at risk, of domestic violence
(3) The letter must contain –
(a) a statement to the effect that, in the reasonable professional judgement of the author of the letter, A is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence;
(b) a description of specific matters relied upon to support that judgement;
(c) a description of the support provided to A; and
(d) a statement of the reasons why A needed that support.
Read the LASPO 2012 evidence requirements for private family law matters (PDF 812 KB)
The LAA has produced guidance on quality compliance issues for when:
The guidance includes:
The LAA has paused its recoupment activity on unrecouped payments on account and is only undertaking recoupment work needed to accurately pay final bills. This is only until the end of June 2020.
The LAA ways of working includes information on:
HMCTS has published advice and guidance for all court and tribunal users during the coronavirus pandemic.
Our interactive map of courts and their status shows which courts and tribunal buildings are operating during the pandemic.
HMCTS has published:
30 tips to help you prepare for a virtual or remote hearing from Andrew King at Lennons Solicitors
HMCTS is rolling out video conferencing technology to all crown courts in England and Wales for some criminal hearings. It has published guidance on the Cloud Video platform that will be used, and a schedule of when it will be available.
The government has also published:
Keeping court and tribunal buildings safe and clean (HMCTS guidance)
As solicitors return to the office in the coming weeks, it’s important that firms:
Our return to the office toolkit gives you practical steps to take in line with government guidance. It includes:
Friday 26 June, 10am to 11am
This free webinar is presented by our head of justice Richard Miller, and interim director of LAG and chair of the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee, Carol Storer. It will: