After a quiet week last week, there has been something of a flurry of announcements on the LSC website this week.
The LSC has produced a checklist for proof of means to accompany civil applications. This is a useful checklist to keep to hand, since in recent months the LSC has tightened its requirements for proof following pressure from the National Audit Office and as a result some practitioners are finding that more applications are being rejected. For the same reasons, bills must be accompanied by receipts or invoices for all disbursements over £20.
In crime, the date for mandatory use of the new AF1 form (version 2) has been extended to 30th June 2011 due to problems with release of the new form.
Even where applications and bills are submitted with all the paperwork in order, practitioners are finding that turn-around times are increasing. The LSC publishes (for both civil and crime) on its website every week a summary of where it is in dealing with its backlog but has requested that civil practitioners do not contact it to chase progress until cases have fallen outside the published service standards. No official announcement has yet been made regarding resolution of the ongoing problems with criminal graduated fee payments, but we understand that the LSC is hoping to implement IT changes in early June that will begin to tackle the problem. While it is welcome that the LSC is relatively open about its performance, many practitioners will think it unacceptable that they have to wait so long for applications and payments to be dealt with. A target of 8 weeks – which is often missed – would not be acceptable for payment in any other industry. Where the LSC falls short of the very generous standards it has set itself, practitioners may wish to use the complaints procedure, reminding the LSC of its discretion to make compensation payments if loss has been suffered as a result.