The legal aid scheme changed fundamentally following the introduction in April 2013 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO). Since then the take-up of legal aid has dropped dramatically due to changes to the scope of the scheme, the financial eligibility rules and the contracting arrangements. It has never been more critical for the profession to come together to ensure that its voice is heard clearly by Government. LAPG sits on a number of consultation and advisory groups with the MOJ and LAA, representing the interests of practitioners and clients alike, and constantly pressing Government to improve the operation of the scheme and reinvest in legal aid and the wider justice system. We are presenting government with objections but also with solutions, based on the impact of the reforms on the interests of clients, the experiences of our wide membership base, sound economic argument, the need for a sustainable base of legal aid providers, the public interest and the critical role that legal aid plays in the rule of law and the health of our democracy. To ensure that our arguments have maximum impact, it is vital that we represent as large a proportion of the legal aid profession as possible.
LAPG engages directly with the LAA and MOJ to influence policy and improve the practical operation of the legal aid scheme. We’re concerned about the big policy issues, but also the day-to-day problems that impact on front-line practitioners and their clients. We’re currently liaising with the LAA, MOJ and other representative bodies on practical issues like CCMS, audits, fees, tenders, decision-making and contractual issues like the assessment of costs and KPIs.
LAPG Committee members have been instrumental in many of the recent improvements to the scheme, such as pushing for changes to CCMS, the introduction of a new application interface to replace CCMS, the extension of cost and scope limits, and better communication by the LAA to providers.
In October 2019 we conducted a widespread survey of legal aid providers, receiving 550 responses which yielded over 2600 examples of issues with LAA decision-making. We will soon publish the results in a report and are currently meeting regularly with the LAA to ensure that the issues raised by such a large body of practitioners are taken on board by the LAA and used to improve their processes.
“As a result of my discussions with the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, we now have, alongside the regulatory impact test, a legal aid impact test. Any Department that puts forward a new law that includes an offence where there is a possible need for legal aid for an individual will now have to have that assessment made before the legislation is introduced.”
Bridget Prentice MP, Hansard, Wednesday 26 October 2005.
LAPG members receive regular updates on what is happening on the legal aid system. Thanks to our constructive working relationship with the Legal Aid Agency and Ministry of Justice we can often provide information more quickly and in more depth than anybody else.
Have a look at a recent update, which summarises our work over 2019.
We run unique courses and events tailored to the needs of legal aid practitioners. Our Annual Conference gives practitioners an opportunity to question politicians and senior officials from the MoJ and LAA, as well as keep up-to-date on best practice on legal aid and developments in law and policy. This year our Conference will be held in London in October.
Following the successful pilot of the LAPG Certificate in Practice Management in 2015 (with grant funding from the UKCES) we now run this crucial management course on an annual basis.
We also run regular supervision courses to ensure practitioners can comply with the Civil and Criminal Legal Aid contracts. For more information on this course and our other training work visit LAPG Courses
If your organisation has a particular training need, do contact us so to discuss developing a bespoke training course.
The 18th Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards (LALY) ceremony, will take place on Tuesday 7th July 2020 at Etc Venues 155 Bishopsgate London.
The LALYs is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible work of legal aid lawyers and all those who contribute to the legal aid scheme.
Please take the time to nominate a colleague – click here for more information.