LAA nil submissions are required

Whether you have carried out MIAM’s or completed mediation over the course of the past month, the Legal Aid Agency still require you to submit a return. It will need to be a nil return.

You can click on our link to the LAA site detailing how you can submit the nil return. Due to the lockdown, you may not have been able to submit a return before the 20th April for work carried out in March. However, before you are able to submit your April return, you will need to submit the nil return for March.

If you have been struggling with your monthly bulk upload submissions Progress Mediation can help you by automating the process. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

Online mediation location classification for Legal Aid cases

As a consequence of the Covid:19, the Legal Aid agency provided new guidance for family mediation services to provide online mediation.

With the March bulk upload submission many mediation services are finding the MIAM cases being rejected by the CWA submission system because the location is not a formally recognised outreach location.

Several mediation services have fed back responses from their contract managers, suggesting to use the main office location (000) until clear guidance has been issued. Another contract manager suggested using the outreach location that would have been used for a face to face meeting if it had been possible, which would ensure that statistics for outreach locations are captured.

Progress Mediation allows the location of each appointment to be linked to a location on the system, and automated reminders are sent out to clients detailing where the MIAM or mediation will be taking place.

To prevent confusion, mediation services have been creating new locations to symbolize online mediation, so the reminder shows that it is Skype or Zoom. To save having to create multiple locations for online meetings which are linked to different outreach location codes, we recommend that mediation services create a single online location, linked to the main office.

MIAM’s are automatically pulled into the bulk online submission file ready for upload to the Legal Aid portal, specifying the main office location.

LAA family mediation update : Reasons for Means7 Signature format

Following a meeting between the Family Mediation Council (FMC) and the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) on Friday of last week, the FMC yesterday released an update on the meeting.

In an effort to help mediation services support clients with legal aid cases, the Legal Aid Agency has published guidance covering the issue of obtaining signatures. They have confirmed that electronic signatures is now valid.

In the event that an electronic signature could not be obtained an email from the client showing the following is satisfactory:
a. an intent to take up the offer of legally aided family mediation (not just the expectation),
b. plus the client’s name with the intention that it is considered to be a signature, which should be contained in the body of the email. They have stated that ‘Whatever route to obtain the signature is obtained, the reason for this should be recorded on the case file.’

To support the new guidance, we’ve issued a live update in the Intake Stage of Progress Mediation.

This is one of the many benefits of using a hosted system, we’re able to provide quick updates as new guidance or changes are introduced, without the need for you to download and install software patches.

For more information on how Progress Mediation can help with case management, including support for the bulk monthly online submission to the LAA, please get in touch.

Headset recommendations

Along with a camera, using video conferencing software requires a microphone and speaker or headphones. Most laptops come with one or more microphones built in, along with speakers. However, some older laptops or desktop computers may be be fitted with these.

Regardless of whether you have speakers or microphones built into your computer, having a headset is helpful to ensure you can hear other people on the conference call.

Logitech H340

H340 USB Computer Headset 5

This connects using the USB connection on your computer, allowing both the speaker and microphone to operate.

Logitech 960

A cheaper option is the Logitech 960 , which is a light weight version, providing noise cancelling functionality, to reduce external noise that may be in the room.

960 USB Headset

Both these options are in great demand, and Logitech’s online store along with Amazon are currently showing these items are temporarily unavailable.

Online mediation – camera recommendation

If you’re a mediator just stepping out of the boat onto the water, wondering how to begin with online mediation, one of the first places to start is making sure you have the right equipment. It’s a bit like when you start a new hobby like running, and need to go down the shops (or Amazon if you’re in lockdown…) to buy the new running shoes, tops and shorts.

Yesterday we looked at the right platform to use – today, we turn to the visual aspects – the video camera.

There are plenty of choice on the market, including dedicated video conferencing bars, such as the Poly Studio X30, currently retailing for £1999.

For those who don’t use it for long periods of time, there are cheaper solutions. We recently tested the Logitech C930-E for a business which needed to occasionally make calls using Skype. This retails at £75 and for the money is incredibly good value.

It supports full HD 1080p/30fps Light Correction, Autofocus, 4X Zoom, Privacy Shade, Works with Skype Business, WebEx, Lync, Cisco, for PC/Mac/Laptop/Macbook/Chrome book. However we notice at the time of writing the blog that it’s currently out of stock at Amazon. Clearly a good choice!

The device was very straight forward to setup (plug ‘n’ play) and when linked to Skype even tracked face movement as we moved about in front of the camera.

All in all our rating was 9/10 for the camera, providing good value and excellent picture quality.

Tomorrow we’ll be looking at another aspect, the audio.

Video conferencing software – navigating through the maze

Making the transition to regular video conference from face to face meetings is a technology blockage for some, which is understandable after dropped Skype connection experiences in the past!

Technology has moved on in leaps and bounds, and the video conference platform is more robust compared with even a couple of years ago. However, it still provides moments of intense frustration, and even yesterday morning during two video conference Skype calls, the connection was lost a couple of times, then screen sharing dropped out when trying to move between two screens.

There are currently a number of well established video conference platforms – Skype, Skype for Business, Webex from Cisco, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Goto Meetings along with the more mobile device specific such as Facetime and Google Hangouts or Duo.

Having had long debates with Stephen Anderson (an established mediator who lives and works in Ipswich, who loves experimenting with new technology!) over the years, Zoom always seems to have the more edge when it comes to positive reviews. When we’ve used it in the past, never in anger it has to be said, the call connection has never been interrupted or lost.

Connectivity will depend on the quality of your internet connection, which we would recommend is not a 4G hotspot linked from your phone.

Zoom meetings free offer :-

  • free personal meetings for up to 100 participants
  • Unlimited 1 to 1 meetings
  • 40 minutes on group meetings of 3 or more participants
  • Simultaneous screen sharing
  • Secure AES 256 bit encryption

Getting your clients onboard will always be the next challenge, but if you’ve been able to get the platform up and running, then it’s easier to convince your clients to watch a demo then give it a try. Moving to more than two clients will requires upgrading to the Pro version at £11.99 pcm, and the limit of call duration is increased from 40 mins to 24 hours – that’s probably more than adequate for any seasoned mediator!

With all the issues of self isolation in the UK and many other places around the world, it offers a unique opportunity at a time where face to face meetings are not possible, now is the time to give video conferencing a go.

Now is the time for family mediators to embrace new technology

Featured

We are living in unprecedented times as the coronavirus affects individuals, businesses and schools with a huge impact. As the government increases restrictions of social gatherings and movements to try and contain the virus, we know that this poses many challenges for mediation services and individual mediators. Deciding how to meet with clients and tracking all aspects of the cases are both real issues.

Now is the time more than ever before to embrace technology to assist, which will also have an impact on the long-term. Technology which has been rapidly evolving for a number of years and is ready to support this transition.

Video conferencing

Mediation has been an area that has been reluctant to embrace online mediation, because of the sensitive nature of family separation. However video conferencing can provide many benefits with cost and time savings compared to room bookings, for both MIAM and mediations. Software packages such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, along with FaceTime which some clients may be more familiar with. We’ve spoken with a number of services over the past few week that are already moving appointments to online with immediate effect.

Case management

We’ve been working with family mediation services since 2012, and we are here to support services through the challenges in the wake of the coronavirus.

Progress Mediation, is case management software designed to run online, whether you have a Windows or Apple Mac computer. All you will need is a browser with Microsoft Word, without needing to install extra software. Progress Mediation can help you through the mediation stages, without the need for a physical file. This makes it the perfect tool to run from home or an outreach location.

With the government imposing restrictions on everyday lives, this will put additional stress and strain on relationships, and when things return to normal people will need help. Now is the time to plan to make changes to meet the needs.

We regularly add new features in the case management software, and our clients are convinced Progress Mediation supports family mediation to make case management quicker and easier. Introducing standard templates and dynamic documents (for creating MoU’s) will have a significant impact in streamlining case management, saving time and money.

We’re here to help, so email or call us to talk about how we together support families around the UK.

Update to LAA CWA bulkload spreadsheet

This week the Legal Aid Agency has issued a revised update for the bulkload spreadsheet used for online submissions for the Controlled Work and Administration system (CWA) used for claiming family mediation legal aid work.

The latest version of the spreadsheet (v1.22) is required for all future manual claim submissions via the online CWA system. You can find the latest information about the release on the LAA website or just download the file from the LAA website here.

There are alternatives to uploading your monthly bulkload spreadsheet to the CWA system. Progress Mediation provides a simplified process of capturing all your case information during the month, then generating the special file to upload to the CWA system, simplifying the submission process. If you would like more information, why not get in touch via our contact page.

First published : Feb 23rd 2018

LAA portal update – new login credentials

The online LAA Portal is the single sign on tool for accessing CCMS, CWA, Eforms and CCLF systems. The Portal is being upgraded to:

  • Increase stability
  • Speed up log in times
  • Create a more user-friendly password reset process
  • Provide status bars for all applications and give live information on any issues affecting performance

The upgrade will require an IT outage to the Portal and all the applications accessed through it. We have looked to do this during an off-peak period in order to cause minimal disruption.

A large number of users have now been migrated to the upgraded Portal, with remaining users scheduled to be migrated in September. You will need to access the new Portal from today (11 September 2017) for CCMS, CWA, CCLF EMI and Eforms via the upgraded portal.

Comparing postal rates 30th April 2012

The following table provides comparison costs between using stamps or franking. However, implementing franking is not a straight forward implementation. Some franking machines will require a telephone line in order to update postage costs from the Royal Mail using a modem.  In addition there are typically annual service charges along with ‘extras’ such as ink costs, franking labels and in some cases recrediting costs and franking logo and return address. Maybe licking a stamp at 60p is the cheaper option after all…

Postal Rates from April 30 2012

Format Maximum
Weight
First
Class
Stamps
First
Class
Meter
Second
Class
Stamps
Second
Class
Meter
Letter 0-100g £0.60 £0.44 £0.50 £0.31
Large Letter 0-100g £0.90 £0.66 £0.69 £0.53
101-250g £1.20 £0.92 £1.10 £0.76
251-500g £1.60 £1.24 £1.40 £1.01
501-750g £2.30 £1.76 £1.90 £1.43
Packet
0-100g £2.70 £2.36 £2.20 £1.92
101-250g £2.70 £2.36 £2.20 £1.92
251-500g £2.70 £2.36 £2.20 £1.92
501-750g £2.70 £2.36 £2.20 £1.92
751-1000g £4.30 £3.29 £3.50 £2.54
1001-1250g £5.60 £4.57 Please note:
items heavier than 1000g
cannot be sent 2nd Class.
1251-1500g £6.50 £5.38
1501-1750g £7.40 £6.18
1751-2000g £8.30 £6.89
2001-4000g £10.30 £9.00