Over 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.