Legal Aid Agency – Keycard 56

Last week we became aware of a revised Legal Aid Keycard, which became applicable from 6th April 2020.

The keycard details the latest allowance rates for dependants and employment expenses. To download the latest version of the keycard click here.

Our family mediation online case management system, Progress Mediation, integrates these values in the integrated Means7 Calculator tool. This can be used to determine the client financial eligibility, exporting the completed form for signing. To find out more visit our Product Tour.

Updated Notice of [intention to proceed with] a financial application – aka Form A

The MoJ have this week (w/c 1st June) released an updated version of ‘The Notice of [intention to proceed with] a financial application to which the standard procedure applies’ – otherwise known as Form A.

We’ve converted the form into a template, to enable our case management system to insert the mediator’s details onto the form, along with case information to prevent the form being used for other applications, once saved in PDF format.

The latest Form A can be downloaded from the MoJ pages on the Government website. If you’d like to know more information on how case management can help with case administration, then please get in touch.

New LAA 2018 mediation contracts support postal & remote applications

From 1st September it became a requirement to record Postal Application information for both client and partners for family mediation legal aid cases. These are then required to be submitted to the Legal Aid Agency as part of your monthly submissions.

Standard Civil Contract 2018 specification

As part of the new 2018 contracts, the LAA have released a new contract specification which outlines the mediation service operating requirements. Section 3.15 titled ‘Acceptance of Applications other than in person’, details that :

“an application for Controlled Work may be accepted via post, fax, email or other such method of communication as we may agree from time to time where the Client requests that the application is made in this way and it is not necessary for the interests of the Client or his or her case to attend you in person.”

It’s worth noting that section 3.17 it details that 

“the number of Matters where your Client does not attend you in person either because you accept an application under Paragraph 3.15 or provide telephone or email advice under Paragraph 3.18, must not exceed 25% of your total Matters opened in any Schedule period.”

LAA support for remote communication

As part of the new 2018 contracts, the LAA also for the first time supports providing

“… advice to a Client over the telephone, by email or via other means of remote communication before that Client has signed the Application Form”

This is a huge step forward for the LAA acknowledging the use of Skype and other forms of ‘remote communication’ within the mediation process. Section 3.19 also states that

“The Client does not have to attend your Office to sign the Application Form after having been given advice in the manner set out in Paragraph 3.18. You may send the Application Form to your Client, after you have given the advice, for signature and return, subject to Paragraph 3.15.”

Support for postal application at the intake stage

Progress Mediation provides support for tracking postal applications simplifying the process of case management for family mediation and 6 other forms of mediation using Progress Mediation 4 All.

For more information please visit our main website.

Government announces new family mediation contracts starting April 2018

On 20th January the government published information on intentions for civil legal aid contracts from April 2018, stating that further information on the future of family mediation services would follow. Many took this as a warning sign for the future of legal aid for family mediation.

On Monday the government published new information detailing intentions for family mediation legal aid contracts from April 2018. This details the delivery of new family mediation services under the new 2018 Standard Civil Contract (“Contract”) to commence from 1 April 2018. The statement includes:

“The government remains committed to family mediation as a key route to helping family disputes avoid court proceedings. We will therefore not make significant changes to how family mediation services are delivered under current contracts.”

Clearly a good sign for existing family mediation services with legal aid contracts, and those wishing to start new contracts.

One of the major changes is the removal of the requirement for the Mediation Quality Mark,  instead

“…the Contract will require mediators and mediation organisations meet the standards set out by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) and the Family Mediation Standards Board.”

The information proposes a timetable for services applying for the new contracts, commencing with the new SQ stage opening in April 2017.

The timetable consists of three main stages prior to issuing of contracts:

  • Selection Questionnaire (SQ)
  • Invitation to Tender (ITT)
  • Verification process

Progress Mediation has been helping support mediation services comply with their legal aid contracts for over five years. If your family mediation service is considering applying for a legal contract, we’re here to help. Our mobile software was launched in January 2016 to help keep you in touch with your workload whilst on the move.

The limits on the number of mediation matters that services can start a contract with, have been removed. Therefore family mediation services will not be required to bid for a specific volume of work – ensuring smaller services can still bid for contracts. This matches our ethos of growing with you as your service grows. You can pick the functionality from our modules and number of users that suits you.

Reducing the stress of monthly LAA submissions

laa-portal2In April 2015, the Legal Aid Agency moved to digital submissions for family mediation. For some family mediation services, the monthly submission has now become a very stressful time. Spending additional time gathering information for cases into spreadsheets then compile into the format required by the LAA.

We’ve collected some helpful tips to reduce the stress of submitting.

Collecting client information

  1. Gather client information (DOB, ethnicity, disability.  eligibility, address, etc)  as you go along during the month. This will reduce the time entering information at month end.
  2. Ensure key dates (intakes, mediations) are recorded – either using a spreadsheet or case management system.
  3. Ensure you track the mediation / intake location for each case

Pre-upload checks

Once you’re ready to submit:-

  1. Check for any missing information in your spreadsheets, or produced by your case management system.
  2. Calculate the case ID and unique case ID for each case – the formula for these is contained in the LAA Excel templates. Some case management systems will calculate this for you.
  3. Ensure your computer date format is set for UK (dd/mm/yyyy) if you are using spreadsheets. If the date format is set to US (mm/dd/yyyy) this can cause issues with the CWA portal.

There are a number of ‘features’ of CWA bulk uploading you need to be aware of. Once you understand these, the process is fairly straight forward… If errors are reported by the CWA system, you need carefully cross checked against the original uploaded data in order to resolve.

Uploading the bulk submission file

Once logged onto the system, select ‘Select the CWA Activity reporter manager (External Role)’, then select ‘Activity Management’:

cwa1

 

The activity management menu option is located at the top right of the screen.

 

 

cwa2This will display the Bulk Load File selection screen where you click ‘browse’, then locate the local file on your computer to be uploaded.

 

The CWA system will then take you through a number of stages as the monthly submission file is processed. After the file has been uploaded select ‘Yes’ to load the results.

cwa3Once uploaded, the CWA shows the status is INCOMPLETE. It’s not clear of the next stage, but click on the pencil icon under ‘update’. The proceed with the next 3 stages, as the monthly return is processed calculating the value of each element of the return, and cross checking client information against previous returns.

cwa4

 

At each of the steps click ‘Next’ – unless you spot any errors, where the facility is provided to edit the information in the stage.

 

 

 

cwa5

After the 3 steps have been completed, click on the ‘submit’ button.

This is following by a confirmation step requiring you to click ‘Yes’.

 

You will then see a confirmation screen providing a final summary of the return. An automated email is then generated by then CWA system to your designated email address.

Submission confirmation

Confirmation of the submission process can also be found in the notifications section, where a list of previous submission results can be viewed.

cwa6At the notifications screen select ‘Full list’  to display all past notification messages.

This is a brief overview of the steps involved in submitting a family mediation return via the CWA. Progress Mediation clients are provided with assistance for the upload process.

LAA new schedule number from 1st May

laa-logoFrom 1st April, the Legal Aid Agency commences it’s new financial year. As a result the schedule number used for Legal Aid outcome returns needs to be updated.

The new format from 1st April for family mediation contract returns is as follows :

xxxxxx/MEDI2010/15

Where xxxxxx is the unique mediation service identification code.

 

For more information about the recent LAA submissions transition from paper to online for family mediation, read our recent blog.

 

 

Legal Aid Mediation Submissions – changes are coming…

online sub6Over the past couple of years there have been a number of significant changes regarding legal aid for family mediation. It started with LASPO in April 2013, The Children and Families Bill on 22nd April 2014 and new 1st mediation session payments from 4th November. More changes are on on the horizon that will impact case administration of legal aid family mediation contracts – for some the implications will be significant.

For years the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and before it the Legal Services Commission (LSC) have discussed moving from paper to online submissions. Each time the project has been put on hold as a result of financial constraints – until now.

In the MoJ’s move towards ‘digital services’, financial resources have finally been allocated for mediation, and a project to define the finer details for online submissions is under way. A working group has been set up including representatives from the LAA and software vendors. This will ensure changes will be supported by case management systems.

As with the existing legal help and crime systems, mediation services will be able to submit the monthly return information via Contracted Work and Administration (CWA) using one of three methods:

  • Entering each case line by line using the online portal
  • Bulk upload of data formatted into specialist spreadsheet
  • Bulk upload of data formatted in XML format directly from case management system

Clearly moving from a paper based system to a digital one will have huge benefits for the LAA in the reduced time, cost and accuracy. From the mediation service perspective, this will take additional time to format the information for uploading. However, there will be advantages of reduced inputt errors, quicker response times (and payments?) from the LAA.

The new on-line system is due to come into operation to align with new mediation contracts commencing on the 1st February. February’s return will need to be submitted on-line between 1st-10th March using one of the three methods mentioned above. We are advising family mediation services that currently hold a mediation contract to carefully consider their monthly submissions and evaluate whether:-

1) current case management software will be able to generate the information in the required format

2) how to create the new date format using existing in-house processes / systems

Over the next three months whilst the project is gaining momentum, our blog will be updated with specific details as the new format is finalised. Services with existing contracts can prepare to say a ‘fond’ farewell to the Consolidated Work and Work Start reports. Services starting new LAA contracts from 1st February can start from a clean sheet. Either way, devising systems to efficiently help track the flow of cases through mediation will be essential.

For more information about how case management systems can help track mediation cases, contact us or visit our website.

Update 22nd January 2015

Read more on the official MoJ News stories page published on the 22nd January. To raise any questions or concerns, email Reconciliation@legalaid.gsi.gov.uk.

Update 19th February 2015

The Legal Aid Agency have announced this morning that the online submissions has been delayed until the 1st April for March returns. This till enable more time for testing to ensure there will be no delays to the payment system for mediation services. Information to mediation services detailing the changes are expected shortly.

Update 31st March 2015

The Legal Aid Agency have today issued a blog ‘CWA updates to reporting changes‘, detailing Contracted work and administration (CWA) system changes and guidance in reporting civil legal help and crime lower work. The list of documents includes the Guide to mediation changes from March 2015. The guide will enable you to submit Mediation claims via the CWA, accessed through the Online Portal.

A inclusion of support for family mediation into CWA will now make it possible for mediation services with legal aid contracts to enter mediation submissions. The deadline for electronic submissions is the 10th of the month. For example, you must submit your March submission by 10th April.

Tendering for new LAA family mediation contract – can we help?

The new tendering process for LAA contracts for mediation is now open, with the deadline for submissions at 12pm on 31st October. The newly awarded contracts will commence 1st February 2015.

Many have seen the LAA contract for mediation as a non-viable option, with fixed fees for assessments and mediations, reduced income for larger number of mediation sessions and 1st mediation sessions, along with the extra administration requirements. Clearly there has been a drastic drop in solicitor referrals since LASPO. However there are many indications that referral rates have been increasing over the past couple of months, a noticeable difference pre LASPO, is that many of these are self referrals.

A number of services have been speaking to us regarding the technical issues of managing the complexities of a LAA mediation contract. The LAA requires a number of administrative processes to be in place before a contract is awarded, included documentation of office processes and procedures. These don’t include a dedicated case management system, however it can greatly help case tracking, form completion and the general administration of the contract. The draft LAA Standard Terms 2013 (published May 2012 and available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/standard-civil-contract-2010 ) specifies:

‘You must have an IT system which enables you to perform your obligations under this Contract. Your IT system must include the following as a minimum with the following features as a minimum’:

  • a system to identify all your Contract work files
  • a system to enable you to identify Client conflicts
  • a system for identifying relevant Matters and cases when acting for a Client in a number of Matters and/or cases
  • a system for accessing a list of all Matters and cases that are open and closed
  • a system which identifies key dates in respect of any Matter and/or case
  • a time recording system for all Matters and cases
  • a system for identifying an up to date record of the value of your work in progress on all Matters and cases
  • access to our website www.legalservices.gov.uk
  • access to your LAA Online Account
  • at least one operational email address

So how can we help? We’ve been supporting family mediation services who provide private and legal aid clients for three years. Our case management software is designed to simplify tracking cases, and our integrated forms assist with the LAA contract requirements.

The software links the mediation case with the forms and templates. LAA forms such as the C100, CW5, Consolidated work and Work start are integrated. These bring through the client information onto the forms to save time. Calculating the monthly returns can take a couple of days, manipulating the client information into the format required. The software makes this straight forward with the click of a button. In generating the LAA forms, we determine the cases which assessments or mediations are eligible for legal aid. Therefore simplifying the process of calculating the value of LAA work undertaken.

means7In addition to the forms, we’ve integrated the Means7 calculator into the software, helping to determine whether a client is eligible for legal aid. All the calculations are stored on a client by client basis, so that if some of the information is not available on the first visit, it can be completed onto the official Means7 form and printed at a later date without having to start again.

All documentation and activities linked to the cases are stored in one place, so that you can generate case activity and reports as needed to fulfil the necessary reporting and statistics.

If the LAA contract is something that you’ve contemplated but thought it too complicated, why not talk to us and see how the right IT system can make it easier.

LAA 1st mediation session payment for both parties

laa-logoLast week the Legal Aid Agency issued information to contract providers about a new payment for both parties for the 1st mediation session, outlined by Simon Hughes on 20th August this year. This new payment to mediation services with LAA contracts, will come into effect from 1am on the 3rd November subject to a consultation process. More details confirming the date of implementation should be available next week.

Information of how the new payment will be implemented is detailed in a list of amendments to the Family Mediation Specification. The relevant paragraph changes are listed below:

Para 4.5

If a Single Session is all that takes place, the appropriate session payment for that Single Session is all that is payable and all that you should report. Subject to Paragraphs 4.5B and 4.5C; if more than one session takes place, the session payment for a Single Session is not payable, and should not be reported. Instead, the appropriate higher case payment specified in Remuneration Regulations is payable and that outcome should be reported.

Para 4.5A

Paragraphs 4.5B and 4.5C shall only become operative on amendments of the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013 taking effect which provide that the normal financial means test shall not apply in respect of the first mediation session following an Assessment Meeting where one party is financially eligible to receive public funding and the other party is not.

Para 4.5B

Where, save for the application of this Paragraph 4.5, only one party would be entitled to receive public funding for mediation, then for the purposes of the first mediation session only (following the Assessment Meeting) and subject to the other requirements of this Paragraph, the means test set out in the applicable Financial Regulations shall not apply and payment may be claimed by the party not otherwise entitled to receive public funding for that initial session. The value of any such claim by a party who would not otherwise be entitled to receive public funding shall be limited to an amount equal to half of the fee payable for a Single Session where both parties were entitled to receive public funding (irrespective of whether the mediation continues beyond the initial session) and only where that first mediation session takes place on/or after the date this provision becomes operative pursuant to Paragraph 4.5A. In cases where the first mediation session takes place prior to this date the relevant means test shall apply as normal and payment will only be made where a party is entitled to receive public funding following the outcome of such test.

Para 4.5C

Irrespective of any entitlement to claim half of a Single Session fee by a party who would not otherwise be eligible to receive public funding the session payment in respect of the party who is eligible to receive public funding shall be that which is payable in accordance with Paragraph 4.5 above and you must report the mediation as a single Matter regardless of the fee payable in respect of each party. For the avoidance of doubt the provisions of Paragraph 4.10 shall apply in relation to all work undertaken following the initial mediation session, including Agreed Proposal fees.

Para 8

If the Mediation concludes but the parties return to you within 3 months you should reopen the case if it relates to the same Matter and submit an amended Consolidated Work Report Form. If the parties return after 3 months since the last visit, you should treat the return visit as an entirely new Matter and for the avoidance of doubt in such circumstances the provisions of Paragraphs 4.5B and 4.5C shall apply in relation to the entitlement of both parties to receive payment for the new initial session.

Para 4.10

Subject to Paragraphs 4.5B and 4.5C above; where one party is receiving public funding for Mediation, only half the specified fee is payable. The amount you charge for the other party depends on the terms of your agreement with them. The Mediation Contract Report Form requires you to show which Clients are receiving public funding.

Summary

  • There is no change to the consolidated or work start forms, or the process that providers follow to submit their claims.
  • The only changes are to session fees for cases where only one of the clients in mediation is eligible for legal aid.
  • There will be no changes to fees for cases where both clients are legally aided, and no change to any Agreement fees.
  • There is no change to the fees for Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs).

Single session mediation – provider will receive half the single session fee for both clients (i.e. in total, the full single session fee)
Multi-session mediation – provider will receive half the multi session fee for the client that is eligible for legal aid + half the single session fee for the client that is not eligible

Update – 21st October

The Legal Aid Agency have today confirmed that the consultation process for the changes has now been completed, and the legal aid payments for 1st mediation session for both parties will come into effect on the 3rd November.

 

Understanding Family Mediation

The video ‘Understanding Family Mediation’ aimed at explaining the purpose of family mediation was developed by a number of partners (Prof Liz Stokoe, Protocol IT and Kerf Design and the MoJ) and released on the Ministry of Justice YouTube channel in May this year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=va59Ksk6XZQ

Simpler Government Security Classification System Introduced

In November 2013, the Legal Aid Agency announced a new simpler government security classification system would be introduced April 2014. The new system would replace the Government Protective Marking Scheme used by legal aid providers to mark all personal and sensitive data relating to work undertaken for LAA contracts.

From the 2nd April 2014, the current marking on the front of official forms ‘Protect – Personal Information’ will no longer be required.  The Justice website will eventually reflect the updated forms, removing wording removed. A phased approach will be adopted, leaving the changes to the discretion of services to remove the wording as and when it is convenient.

The example below shows the change applied to the CIV Means7 form :

preAprilSecurity postAprilSecurity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forms have now been issued on the Justice website with the changes, however revision numbers remain the same.

CIV Means7 Version 8

CW5 Version 3

For more details on changes to security classification, go to the Justice website.