Tag Archives: audit

Family tender – Law Society Lexcel timetable

This is relevant to the  many firms we know are preparing for Lexcel accreditation and are also submitting bids for new Family contracts with the Legal Services Commission.

The Law Society has published the timetable for Lexcel accreditation, in time to meet the LSC’s deadline of accreditation confirmed by August 2012. The Law Society stresses that this timetable will be strictly enforced.

Timescale

2011
03 October Close for initial applications form submissions
18 November Initial application decision deadline
2012
1 February Family contracts start
28 February Initial assessment visit deadline
31 May All corrective action received
31 July Final decision on accreditation issued

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How many audits does one organisation need?

In what is perhaps a masterpiece of (unintended) irony, the LSC has put out a news item on its website saying that it is a key goal to “reduce the amount of auditing for providers” because “in an ideal world we wouldn’t want to audit at all”. It then announces a new guidance page on its website (the link is to the civil one, though the criminal one is identical), which contains a list of the current audit types. Sixteen of them – and “this list is not meant to be exhaustive”.

The guidance lists the types of audits, including what would trigger them, how they are conducted and what are the potential outcomes. Practitioners should study the list, especially if notified by the LSC that they will be subject to one of them. Particularly useful is the “provider dashboard”, which ranks the various contractual key performance indicators according to priority. Breach of those marked as high priority is more likely to trigger an audit than those marked as low priority.

Organisations should be continually monitoring their performance against the KPIs (see chapter 17 of the Handbook) and the dashboard is useful in identifying the ones on which there should be a particular focus.

 

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Filed under Civil, Crime, Family, Handbook, Immigration, Social welfare

LSC announcements week ending 8th July 2011

The pattern of a group of announcements, followed by a fortnight’s silence, followed by another group of announcements, seems to be well-established. After last week’s silence, there has been another cluster of important developments. Two – on family contract tenders and contract compliance audits – are the subject of separate post. The LSC have also issued yet another reminder to family practitioners of the training available on the new fees; if you haven’t done it yet, it is worth doing so. They are also looking for practitioners to act as Independent Costs Assessors. Given that many firms and organisations are complaining of an increase in arbitrary and heavy-handed assessment decisions, the position of ICA is more important than ever.

In crime, as we reported last week, legal aid has been extended to cover domestic violence prevention notices and orders in the three pilot areas of Greater Manchester, West Mercia and Wiltshire. The LSC have now issued a guidance note (PDF) confirming that police station advice, free-standing advice and assistance and representation orders are all available as appropriate, as is assistance from the court duty solicitor.

In light of the Hookway case, pending the passage of the emergency legislation introduced in the Commons yesterday, the LSC has also issued a guidance note (PDF) on billing work where a client is re-arrested. In short, it confirms that where the re-arrest is on the same matter, all work is part of the same fixed fee.

Mental health practitioners may be interested in the LSC’s equality impact assessment of last year’s tender for secure hospital work, issued as a result of a challenge by RMNJ Solicitors.

Finally, the legal aid bill continues its progress through Parliament, with the second reading debate last week and the first committee hearings next week. There has been much controversy over clause 12, which gives the government the power to restrict police station advice.  Jonathan Djanogly has now said that the government will not activate the clause. This was said at the Legal Action Group Social Welfare Law conference earlier this week; speeches by Djanogly and Sadiq Khan, the shadow Lord Chancellor, are available on the LAG website.

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Changes to contract compliance audits

With effect from Monday, contract compliance audits will be carried out in a different way. Instead of a standard sample of 20 files, the LSC will request between 30 and 50, depending on the size of your contract. Instead of the current system of requesting a second larger sample if there are concerns, the first sample will be the only sample which will determine the outcome of the audit. The LSC will also stop using the names category 1, 2 and 3 for audit outcomes – results will instead be expressed simply as the percentage band – less than 10%, 10% to 20%, or over 20% – but the consequences of falling into each band remain the same. The CCA page of the LSC website has a process map for audits and a document showing sample sizes for differing sizes of civil contract (criminal will always be 30).

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Going steady

A practitioner reports being told by a member of LSC staff that her client’s means had to be aggregated with her significant other’s because ‘they were serious about each other and called each other “partner”‘, even though they were not living together (and never had).

That’s not exactly what it says in the Community Legal Service (Financial) Regulations 2000. The interpretation section states:

“partner” except in the expression “partner in a business” means a person with whom the person concerned lives as a couple, and includes a person with whom the person concerned is not currently living but from whom he is not living separate and apart.

I agree that the concept of being a couple when two people are ‘separate and apart’ can be tricky. Guidance can be found in LSC Manual vol 2, part F, para 4.2. Examples given are where you would aggregate means are where the couple are prevented from living together by circumstances, e.g. one of them is in prison. It also suggests that with unmarried couples (or those not in a civil partnership), you would expect to see some pooling of financial resources.

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New supervisor forms

The LSC has issued new supervisor forms for organisations operating under the Standard Civil Contract. Usefully they are made available in MS Word format. Supervisors should keep the forms up to date on a rolling basis as the LSC can check qualification at any time. The new forms can be found here

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