Legal Aid Transformation Reforms

royalcourtsofjusticeAs a result of the Legal Aid transformation review, the HM Courts & Tribunals Service and Legal Aid Agency will be issuing revised documents for legal aid from 22nd April 2014. This blog will be used to detail the changes affecting family mediation as they become available.

Form changes

Means7CIV Means7 – a revised form including information on residents test and additional sections to the evidence checklist, has been delayed until August 2014.

An updated version of the form has been issued, removing the security classification – but the previous version will remain accepted.

 

Cw5CW5 – a revised form including information on residents test and additional sections to the evidence checklist, has been delayed until August 2014.

An updated version of the form has been issued removing the security classification – but the previous version will remain accepted.

 

c100C100 : Application under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 for a child arrangements, prohibited steps, specific issue order or to vary or discharge or ask permission to make a section 8 order

The form has been revised to include new sections detailing required attendance or exemption(s) from MIAM attendance. Download the latest here.

 

FM1FM1 : Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This form is only to be used when making an application to the court on form C1 or C2 for use with specific orders.

This form has been extensively revised compared with the previous version. Download the latest here.

 

FormAForm A : Notice of [intention to proceed with] an application for a financial order

This includes a section for the  mediator to certify that the prospective applicant is exempt from attendance or exception at a MIAM. Download it here.

 

FormA1

Form A1 : Notice of [intention to proceed with] an application for a financial remedy (other than a financial order)

This includes a section for the  mediator to certify that the prospective applicant is exempt from attendance or exception at a MIAM. Download it here – currently latest form is not available.

 

FormB

Form B : Notice of an application to consider the financial position of the Respondent after the divorce/dissolution.

This includes a section for the  mediator to certify that the prospective applicant is exempt from attendance or exception at a MIAM. Download it here.

 

These forms have been released to software vendors, and will be available from the 22nd April on the HMCTS Form Finder site at www.justice.gov.uk/forms/hmcts.

Tendering for LSC mediation contract – can we help?

The new tendering process for LSC contracts for mediation is now underway, with the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) stage closing on the 18th June, and outcomes being notified at the end of July. The newly awarded contracts are likely to commence in December 2012 and March 2013. So what helps make the decision of whether to tender for a new contract?

Many see the LSC contract for mediation as a non-viable option, with fixed fees for assessments and mediations, reduced income for larger number of mediation sessions, along with the extra administration requirements. However, we’ve heard many mediators commenting on changes over the past couple of months which show that a shift in mediation referrals.

1) A significant reduction in the number of solicitor referrals over the past 3-4 months.

2) When solicitor’s contact regarding mediation, they often ask if Legal Aid is available.

As a result a number of services have been speaking to us regarding the technical issues of managing an LSC mediation contract, and the administrative complexities. The LSC requires a number of administrative processes to be in place before a contract is awarded, included documentation of office processes and procedures. This doesn’t need to include a dedicated case management system, however it can greatly help case tracking, form completion and the general administration of the contract. The draft LSC Standard Terms 2013 (published May 2012 and available at http://www.legalservices.gov.uk/civil/2013_civil_contract.asp) 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 LSC Online Account
  • at least one operational email address

So how can we help? We support family mediation services who provide private and legal aid clients. Our case management software is designed to simplify tracking cases, and our integrated forms assist with the LSC contract requirements.

Ths software links the mediation case with the forms and templates. LSC forms such as the FM1, App7, 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 LSC forms, we determine the cases which assessments or mediations are eligible for legal aid. Therefore simplifying the process of calculating the value of LSC work undertaken.

Integrated Means7 Calculator

In addition to the forms, a Means7 calculator is built 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 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 LSC 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.

Is an office manual all you need to operate an LSC contract?

Yes, an office manual is a central part to running an LSC contract for Family Mediation, but really it’s just the starting point. The complexities of the LSC contract are often difficult to understand and retain in your head at all times.

Here are a couple of examples of areas which can cause confusion as we’ve been talking to family mediators and administrators :

[1] Which Willingness tests can be included and therefore paid by the LSC – any that are recieved at your service? Only those which are funding code referrals can be claimed.

[2] Which intake assessments can be included in the LSC reports – only the clients which are eligible? For funding code referrals, both can be included AND for non funding code referrals where one of the clients is eligible, you can claim the other client intake assessment aswell.

[3] The LSC contract requires you to be able to provide a list of open cases where 90 days have elapsed since the last mediation took place. How would you normally be able to generate this information?

We’ve seen a number of instances where our case management software has detected issues with operating an LSC contract. Clearly to many the idea of using a case management system for doing anything will conjour up fears of draining the life from you and eating all your time. We’ve spoken to family mediators who think just that. It’s true – learning any new piece of software takes time. Every time Microsoft bring out a newer, ‘more improved’ version of Word, we all scratch our heads for a time and start looking to see where things have moved to…

Case management systems work are designed to help, by ensuring you follow a set of procedures for recording the information, it generates the completed LSC forms for you. So how can something which requires you to enter information at each stage of a case help and not hinder? One of the benefits of forcing you to enter information in a set way, results in ensuring that all information is recorded, and then can be used to see what is missing

Take the requirement for reporting on open cases where 90days have elapsed since the last mediation – could this information be beneficial to you as a service rather than just complying with the LSC contract? We believe the information can also:

  • Help the client bring the case to completion earlier by prompting through the stages of mediation
  • Prompting clients make in additional mediation sessions whilst there is momentum
  • Close cases which have reached completion or deadlock

In addition to simply tracking if the last mediation was 90days ago, why not check if there has been any communication with the client over the past 30/60/90 days. This will improve the quality of your service and satisfy all the benefits above.

The reports section of the case management system is vital for mediation services. It helps organise the information from the system to help you run your service. We’ve recently added mediation and activity tracking reports into Progress Mediation which highlight open cases where the case may have stalled. Maybe the advantages of learning a new system could be worthwhile?