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Goodbye LSC!......and goodbye Civil & Family Legal Aid??

Goodbye LSC!......and goodbye Civil & Family Legal Aid??

The Access to Justice Act 1999 replaced the Legal Aid Board with the Legal Services Commission (LSC)

The aim was to reshape legal aid delivery.  We were encouraged to stop using the phrase legal aid and refer to public funding instead. Legal Aid seems to be de rigueur, again.

Just 13 years on and the LSC is to be replaced by the Legal Aid Agency on 1st April 2013.

Those whose client care letters still refer to the Legal Aid Board (or indeed Law Society) can skip an update and move straight to the LAA next year. Will we ever get used to saying LAA as opposed to LSC.  Will LAA evoke the same emotions in legal aid practitioners as "the LSC"? Only time will tell.

The Legal Aid Bill passed into law on 1st May 2012 as the "Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012". [LASPO]

The Access to Justice Act focused on "access" and the re-shaping of legal aid delivery.  The number of firms doing legal aid work has reduced and the recent Family tenders and subsequent audit requirement has no doubt led to more firms deciding to stop doing legal aid Family work.

The new Act seems to focus Alternative Dispute Resolution and introduces the most radical reductions in "scope" we have seen:

  • It will increases mediation funding to £25 million a year
  • It will provide an additional £20 million a year for the next three years for third sector advice and assistance organisations (not-for-profits)
  • It reforms the  civil litigation procedures by dealing with disproportionate legal costs, and by capping the amount that lawyers can take in success fees
  • It makes referral fees illegal in personal injury cases

The following will be out of scope of legal aid

  • asylum support (except where accommodation is claimed);
  • Clinical negligence; except where a child suffers a neurological injury resulting in them being severely disabled during pregnancy, childbirth or the postnatal period (8 weeks).
  • consumer and general contract;
  • Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority cases;
  • Debt, except as stated below;
  • Employment cases;
  • Education cases, except for cases of Special Educational Needs (but see below)
  • Housing matters, except those where the home is at immediate risk (excluding those who are "squatting"), homelessness assistance, housing disrepair cases that pose a serious risk to life or health and anti-social behaviour cases in the county court;
  • Immigration cases (non-detention);
  • Change of name under Legal Help
  • Actions relating to contentious probate or land law,
  • Court actions concerning personal data, action under section 14 of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, and
  • Legal Help on will-making for
    • those over 70
    • disabled people
    • the parent of a disabled person and
    • the parent of a minor who is living with the client, but not with the other parent, and the client wishes to appoint a guardian for the minor in a will;
  • Tort and other general claims, and
  • Welfare benefits; except for advice and assistance for welfare benefits appeals in the Upper Tribunal; and advice, assistance and representation for welfare benefits appeals in the higher courts.

 

  • Private family law (other than cases where criteria are met regarding domestic violence or child abuse);

 

The following Family cases will remain in scope:

  • Public law children proceedings involving care and supervision
  • Private law family applications for injunctions and other orders to prevent domestic violence and forced marriage and linked proceedings
  • Emergency orders to prevent the unlawful removal of a child from the UK (there is no legal aid to oppose such orders)
  • Representation of children in private law proceedings
  • Mediation

As far as Housing is concerned, only limited types of case will remain in scope, namely homelessness, cases where the home is at immediate risk, serious housing disrepair and anti-social behaviour.

 And as to the Debt category, cases where the home is at immediate risk of repossession  will remain in scope , but the LAA will control the flow of this work as it must all come through the CLA helpline - a client cannot walk directly into a solicitor's office to seek advice.

Similar constraints and control of access to advice will be imposed on SEN work and Discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010.

Community Care and Mental Health will remain in scope.

For more information and details:

https://www.legalservices.gov.uk/civil/legal_aid_reform.asp