Tag Archives: Consultations

New consultation on changes to legal aid means tests

The MoJ is consulting on making changes to the means tests for civil and criminal legal aid. Currently universal credit is a passporting benefit for all levels and types of legal aid. However, as roll-out continues and more people receive it, the MoJ proposes changing that.

Universal credit replaces a range of benefits, not all of which are passporting. Maintaining universal credit as a passporting benefit would therefore bring into passporting people who would not be passported before – such as those in receipt of tax credits or housing benefit but not income support or jobseekers’ allowance. The government estimates that would cost £14million per year in increased legal aid.

It is therefore proposing amending the passporting rules so that only those in receipt of universal credit and no household earnings would be passported. Other recipients who earn any money outside universal credit would have to go through the full means test and potentially pay contributions. The housing element of universal credit would be disregarded in the same way that housing benefit is now – so that only net housing costs are included in the assessment.

The consultation can be found here, and closes on  11 May 2017.

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MoJ consults on changes to AGFS

The MoJ has launched a consultation on changes to advocacy fees for Crown Court work. The changes are designed to be cost neutral across the budget as a whole, but both shift payments around between case types  and break down the single case fees into fees based on stages of the case. The paper proposes a return to individual fees for individual hearings. It also, in most cases, moves away from using pages of prosecution evidence (PPE) as a proxy for case complexity, relying more on the nature and classification of the offence; there are more classes proposed than currently.

The proposals have been welcomed by the Bar Council, but criticised by the Law Society as effectively removing money from junior practitioners to increase pay for more senior ones.

Criminal practitioners will want to consider the proposals carefully, especially the potential impacts on their own practice. The consultation closes on 2 March.

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New crime consultation

After losing last week’s judicial review, the MoJ has rushed out a consultation on the two reports (by KPMG and Otterburn Consulting) it commissioned into the state of the criminal legal aid market and firms’ likely response to the cuts.

It is a very short consultation – only three weeks – and expressly not on the policy decisions, merely on the reports, their conclusions and the assumptions that underpin them.

The consultation documents, the reports and how to respond can be found here. It closes on 15th October.

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Transforming legal aid: consultation deadline extended

The MoJ have extended the deadline for responding to the second consultation to 1st November. This is what they have said:

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Law Society officials had a very useful meeting earlier this week to discuss the clarification questions they have received from their members regarding some of the fixed fees under the modified procurement model put forward for further consultation in ‘Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps’.

At the meeting the MoJ agreed to update the document in order to help provide respondents with as much clarity as possible. MoJ has also amended some of the figures in Annex H (Revised Advocacy Scheme proposals) in the light of queries received from the Bar Council.

An updated version of the further consultation document including Annexes G and H can be found at: Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps. No changes have been made to the other documents on that page.

In light of the clarification and amendments, the MoJ has decided to extend the consultation deadline by a further ten working days. As a result, the consultation will now close on 1 November 2013.

Separately, please be aware that the timetable for the research into the optimum size and number of Duty Provider Work contracts, jointly commissioned by the Law Society and MoJ and being conducted by Otterburn Legal Consulting, has also been extended. The closing date to submit surveys is now 16 October. The output of this research will help inform our final decisions. We would therefore encourage respondents to participate.

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Government consults on further legal aid cuts

The government today published a consultation paper with proposals for further cuts and reforms to legal aid.

The main proposals are:

  • Restricting prison law to cases involving determination of a criminal charge, right to review of detention, or where representation is considered necessary in a disciplinary hearing. To be implemented autumn 2013
  • Restricting Crown Court legal aid to those with a household income below £37,500, subject to hardship provisions. Acquitted defendants refused legal aid will be reimbursed at legal aid rates. Implementation autumn 2013
  • Residence test for civil legal aid – it would only be available to those who are lawfully resident in the UK and have actually resided here for 12 months, armed forces personnel and asylum seekers and refugees. LASPO exceptional funding will not be subject to the residence test. Implementation autumn 2013
  • Funding for judicial review cases between issue and permission will be conditional on grant of permission (disbursements will be paid in any event). Even if the case settles pre-permission in favour of the claimant, there will be no right to payment. However, contrary to some press reports costs protection will still apply. Implementation autumn 2013.
  • Abolishing the “borderline” category so that only civil legal aid cases where prospects of success are clearly over 50% will be funded. Implementation autumn 2013.
  • Price competitive tendering for all criminal work except Crown Court advocacy and VHCCs. A defined number of exclusive contracts per area will be let; overall, suppliers will reduce from 1600 to less than 400. PDS to be guaranteed a contract. Clients will be allocated a provider and will not have a choice. Providers will bid below maximum costs per case cap. The cap will be 17.5% lower than current fees. Procurement process to start October 2013 and conclude by June 2014.
  • Harmonise Crown Court plea and trial fees and reduce daily rates. Implementation autumn 2013
  • Reduce VHCC fees by 30% – including for ongoing cases. Implementation autumn 2013
  • Restrict appointment of QCs and multiple advocates in the Crown Court. Implementation autumn 2013
  • Require litigators to support advocates in the Crown Court. Implementation October 2014
  • Reduce standard fees and hourly rates in child care cases by 10%. Implementation April 2014.
  • Changes to FAS to be announced following creation of single family court. Implementation April 2014
  • Reduce hourly rates payable to barristers in civil (non-family) cases in the County Court and High Court to the rates paid to solicitors for advocacy. Implementation autumn 2013
  • Remove the 35% “at risk” uplift payable in immigration and asylum Upper Tribunal cases. Implementation autumn 2014
  • Future (when not specified) introduction of single national (rather than regional or London) payment rates
  • Reduce crime and civil expert rates (apart from independent social workers) by 20%. Implementation autumn 2013.
  • Further consultation in the autumn on changes to eligibility for legal aid

The consultation closes on 4th June.


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