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Legal Aid guidance documents

2018

  • Legal Aid Agency, ‘Contract management: mental health guidance’ (v3, 1/9/18) — This document contains guidance under the following headings: (1) Overview; (2) Means Assessment; (3) Starting New MHT Matters; (4) Evidence of Means; (5) Level 1 and Level 2 Mental Health Proceedings Fees; (6) “Rolling Up” Matters; (7) Applications by a Nearest Relative; (8) The Court of Protection; (9) Work in Prisons; (10) Designated Accredited Representatives.(D)

2017

  • Legal Aid Agency, 'Tribunal appointed representatives in mental health (rule 11(7) cases)' (8/6/17). This is guidance which has been provided to LAA auditors. In its summary section it states that: (1) No work on a client's case should be started before an application for legal aid has been made and properly signed. (2) The provider should in general always seek to visit the client to see if he has capacity and is willing to apply for legal aid himself (subject to bullets 6 and 7 below). (3) If the client lacks capacity then any person can make the application for legal aid on his behalf. That individual does not otherwise have to be involved in the case. (4) If the client lacks capacity or is unwilling/unable to sign the application form (and it is not appropriate for a third party to apply on his behalf) the provider can sign the application form in accordance with paragraph 9.40 of the contract specification. (5) In all Rule 11(7) cases, we expect to see the authority from the tribunal appointing the firm/individual on the file (usually an email). (6) If it is clear from the outset of the case that client lacks capacity or will be unwilling to sign the application form then the provider does not necessarily need to visit the client to see if he is unable/willing to apply. (7) In these circumstances, the provider should justify on file why he has not made any such attempts (e.g. the client clearly lacks capacity and/or has informed staff that he does not wish to see a solicitor).

2015

  • Legal Aid Agency, 'Mental Health Common Errors' (v1, 6/2/15, published April 2015). This document contains the following headings: Claiming Errors; Tackling poor quality; Web links to documents. Details in relation to the following claiming errors are set out in the document: (1) Incorrect coding. (2) Failure to conduct a means assessment for the client in a non-MHT matter, where no advice has been given with regards the Tribunal process, or any advice given was not necessary. (3) Failure to evidence of client’s means in a non-MHT matters where the client is in detention and there is little/no evidence on file that the fee-earner has undertaken reasonable steps to check whether the ward manager, social workers, family members etc. can confirm the client’s financial position. (4) Opening a separate non-MHT matter start and claiming a separate non-MHT fee when it should have been rolled up' into a concurrent MHT fee. (5) Failure to understand matter start rules where the client is the Nearest Relative (NR), particularly with regard to non-MHT and MHT matter start rules. (6) Claiming a MHT fee for standalone non-MHT work such as a Hospital Managers Meeting/Review or S117 meeting. (7) Claiming the MHT Level 3 Fee where an effective MHT has not taken place, or the provider has not carried out any representation. (8) Claiming the MHT Level 2 Fee before an MHT application has been submitted, or where neither 30 minutes work has been done nor negotiations with a third party have been carried out. (9) [I]f the provider makes [an s2] application too late for it to be considered by the tribunal ... only the MHT level 1 fee should be claimed. (10) Failure to open a new NMS in circumstances where an informal patient is detained under Section. (11) Claiming a separate fee in relation to a renewal hearing [in the wrong circumstances]. (12) Claims for Remote Travel Payments. (13) Excessive travel cost claims: the Cost Assessment Guidance indicates a limit of 5 hours unless reasonable justification is evidenced on file. (14) Excessive disbursement claims: includes the claiming of Counsel fees (which should be paid out of the fees claimed except where prior authority has been granted to incur a higher rate) and multiple independent expert reports (where they are not justified by the case). (15) Consideration must be given to whether attendance at HMH, s117 or CPA meetings is necessary and/or appropriate.
  • Legal Aid audits. Different mental health firms have reportedly been given different information about the current round of audits: (a) that larger firms are selected based on contract size, or (b) that every firm will be audited in the next year or so. The official position is that: (1) the focus is on higher-risk providers, and volume of work will not by itself lead to an audit; (2) "higher risk" is not tightly defined, but is a combination of: (a) does the firm have a history of claiming errors? (b) if so, when these have been brought to the firm's attention, is a fix effectively made? (c) are bills rejected or assessed down higher than the norm? (d) are there significant changes in people at the firm? (3) towards the end of the summer, recent audits will be reviewed to see whether the published guidance has reduced problems (source: John Sirodcar, Head of Contract Management, 8/5/15).

2014

2013

2011

  • Legal Services Commission, 'Guidance on the use of agents' (10/10/11). This document sets out the LSC's interpretation of the Standard Civil Contract 2010 that a firm with a high secure hospital contract may do the following, either separately or in combination: (1) use agents to allow firms without HSH contracts to represent HSH patients, or (2) use 30% of their own HSH matter starts at HSHs for which they do not have a contract.

2010

2008

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