The text below is copied directly from the original article posted on Legal Futures (https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/government-to-pilot-publicly-funded-early-legal-advice)

Government to pilot publicly funded early legal advice

Manchester and Middlesbrough are to host pilots to test the benefits of early publicly funded legal advice, the government said this week.

It is also investigating putting legal advice centres in hospitals.

Justice minister Lord Wolfson outlined the latest moves in a letter to the justice select committee and in a short debate in the House of Lords on legal aid in social welfare law.

Last month, the government laid a statutory instrument to bring legal advice for certain housing, debt and welfare benefits issues in scope of legal aid for the purposes of the pilots. The work will be non-means and non-merits tested and there will be a new standard fee of £200.70.

Lawyers will be able to charge £57.43 an hour for preparation and attendance, £32.17 for travel and waiting time, and £4.56 per routine letter out and telephone call.

Lord Wolfson said in his letter: “The pilot itself is designed to test the expansion of legal aid to an area of social welfare, demonstrate the possible benefits of advice in encouraging early resolution, and quantify the downstream benefits of early resolution to government…

“In terms of operation, the pilot will focus on quantifying potential savings to the government by preventing housing matters currently in scope of LASPO (e.g., loss of home) materialising.”

The design recognised that individual’s legal problems often overlapped and should be understood holistically to produce useful advice, he went on.

“Participants will receive comprehensive legally aided advice covering housing, debt, and welfare benefits. This will be provided free of charge, for a fixed number of hours, which may be spread across several sessions.”

Lord Wolfson told peers that the Ministry of Justice was also looking at putting legal advice centres in hospitals, “because we know that people who have legal problems often have other social welfare problems as well”.

He added: “It is often the case that you cannot resolve all your problems through the law; you need a holistic approach. I think we need some hard evidence, and the pilot will be very useful in this area.”

Research published in 2019 [1] argued that providing legal assistance services in healthcare settings could both improve access to advice and support health services to manage non-clinical demand.

It said integrating health and social welfare legal services should be considered “an essential element in the development of social prescribing”, that is, enabling GPs to refer patients to non-medical support services.

The government pilots are the latest initiatives to come out of its 2019 legal support action plan [2].

 

Article printed from Legal Futures: https://www.legalfutures.co.uk

URL to article: https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/government-to-pilot-publicly-funded-early-legal-advice

URLs in this post:

[1] Research published in 2019: https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/research-presses-case-to-offer-legal-advice-alongside-healthcare

[2] legal support action plan: https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/gauke-innovation-and-tech-the-way-forward-on-legal-aid

The below text is copied directly from the SLAB page at https://www.slab.org.uk/news/deadline-for-responses-to-legal-aid-financial-eligibility-assessment-consultation-extended-to-11-february-2022/

24 January 2022

The deadline for responses to our financial eligibility assessment consultation has been extended until 5pm on 11 February 2022.

We have been asked for an extension to allow some stakeholders to give the consultation full consideration.

The consultation seeks the views of the profession and others about how we assess the financial eligibility of people applying for civil legal aid, and includes options for simplifying this process.

Consultation document and how to respond

Background to the consultation can be found on our website, along with the full consultation document for download.

If you have any questions about the consultation, please contact Cindy Morrice (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

 

The below text is copied directly from the SLAB page at https://www.slab.org.uk/news/consultation-launched-about-civil-legal-aid-financial-eligibility-assessment/

1 December 2021

We are seeking the views of the profession and others in a consultation launched today about how we assess the financial eligibility of people applying for civil legal aid.

Evidence and insights into any impacts on protected characteristics and corporate parenting responsibilities are particularly sought.

What are we consulting on?

There are two main sections to the consultation.

  1. Our approach to financial eligibility assessment

Provides an overview of the key steps involved in means assessment, setting out our general approach to making decisions.

We want to hear your views on these steps in the assessment, to identify possible unintended consequences that you see resulting from our current approach. This feedback will inform future consideration of any need for change.

  1. Options for change

Concerns areas of change we have identified and seek your views on.

We want to hear your views on how proposals for change may impact on applicants, the legal profession and others who support individuals requiring legal assistance. This might be support workers or advice providers.

Clarity

The consultation is the start of a process that will see us more clearly stating our policies and guidance for those applying for legal aid and our staff assessing the information provided.

The consultation is part of our Guidance on the Administration of Legal Aid project and follows work we’ve been doing with Scottish Government colleagues to agree a programme of work that can give effect to some of the themes set out in the government’s consultation on reforming legal aid.

This was required in advance of changes that the government may decide to take forward that would need new legislation.

There was strong support in the consultation for simplification of the current system, while maintaining broad scope.

We are seeking views on the way ahead that we’ve identified for changes to our policy and their benefits and disadvantages. We are also seeking views on how we assess financial eligibility at the moment and what guidance would be most beneficial for those applying to us. In particular, we are keen to find out what you can tell us about possible impacts for applicants’ equality groups, as well as those who are or have been in the care of a local authority.

Although our work so far has been focused on financial eligibility assessment for civil legal aid, we recognise the importance of consistency in decision-making wherever feasible and any options we take forward will also be considered for both the children’s and criminal schemes.

Consultation document and how to respond

Please download the consultation document for full details and for information on how to respond.

The consultation closes at 5pm on 26 January 2022.

If you have any questions about the consultation, please contact Cindy Morrice, Civil Finance Manager: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The University of Cambridge’s Pro-Bono Project has produced a report for the International Legal Aid Group entitled 'A Comparative Analysis of Online Dispute Resolution’. The report analyses ODR systems in several jurisdictions and considers what lessons HMCTS can learn in the implementation of their own digitisation project.

As many readers will be aware, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal’s Service (HMCTS) of England and Wales recently announced a £1 billion digitisation effort. This is intended to encompass over 50 distinct projects, including an integrated case management system and ODR systems. HMCTS has indicated that, by 2023, this will have delivered millions in annual cost savings and will have removed 2.4 million cases per year from physical courtrooms. HMCTS has to date undertaken very little consultation on this project and there appears to have been a lack of consideration of the far-reaching implications of such a project for access to justice.

In order to go at least some way to addressing these issues, the International Legal Aid Group commissioned a report from the University of Cambridge’s Pro-Bono Project (CPP) entitled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Online Dispute Resolution’. The report is available to download here and below. The aim of the CPP project was to explore the various concerns associated with ODR, particularly those relating to HMCTS’s proposed Online Court. It is hoped that the final report will provide useful background information that may assist and inform policymakers, together with a comprehensive analysis of the potential impact of ODR that has so far been absent from the debate.

At the heart of the CPP report lies explanation and analysis of first the proposed ODR system in England and Wales, and secondly ODR systems that have been implemented, or that are in the process of being implemented, in other jurisdictions, namely: the United States (specifically Michigan and Utah), Australia (specifically New South Wales and Victoria) and Canada (specifically British Columbia). The jurisdictional research was undertaken by four postgraduate students at the University of Cambridge: James Humphrey (England and Wales), Laura Hannan (United States), Long Pham (Australia) and Jennifer Anderson (Canada). The research was overseen and collated by Alex Allan and Ellie Brown, both PhD students and former practising solicitors.

The first step in preparing the report was the creation of a questionnaire that would be used to structure the report on individual jurisdictions. This covered all of the crucial issues associated with ODR, including the reasons for the introduction of ODR, how it has been implemented, any benefits and problems that have been identified, concerns regarding access to justice, transparency and open justice, together with a detailed explanation of the ODR mechanisms themselves. The structured format of the questionnaire meant that the same information was provided for each jurisdiction. This allowed for a more comprehensive and accurate comparative analysis. The jurisdiction reports were then collated, a summary table was produced and conclusions were drawn.

Summary of the Report’s Findings

It is immediately clear from the report that there is a substantial variation in the extent to which ODR has been implemented in each jurisdiction. This means that there is a corresponding variation in the availability and nature of information and accompanying commentary.

ODR in all of the jurisdictions under consideration is primarily confined to small civil claims. Some jurisdictions specifically confine the use of ODR to claims below a certain value. The reasons for introducing ODR systems are also generally consistent. The potential for a substantial reduction in costs and an increase in efficiency feature in every jurisdiction, as do justifications in terms of ease of access, reducing reliance on legal representatives and reducing the time that it takes a case to go from issue to resolution.

While the aims and intended benefits are similar, the nature of the ODR systems and the methods employed to attain those aims and benefits vary between jurisdictions. This is particularly the case as regards whether an ODR system will act as a procedural tool allowing easier case management, or whether it will eventually replace the traditional role of the court in terms of ruling on applications and adjudicating on claims.

Having undertaken this jurisdictional research, it proved difficult for the authors of the report to determine unequivocally the value of ODR. It appears to have been well-received by users in at least some jurisdictions. It has also been suggested that ODR provides access benefits, may reduce court time and reliance on costly legal representation, and may lead to quicker resolution of disputes. On the more negative side, concerns were voiced that ODR systems could negatively impact both access to justice and open justice. There are concerns across the jurisdictions that, for example, technology may prove a barrier to access for some and that an insufficiently well-designed ODR system could in fact cause additional delays. Care does need to be taken when evaluating the available commentary. The research reveals that much of it is provided by either creators of the system in question or the policy-makers driving its implementation. This means that truly neutral insights can be difficult to obtain.

Summary of the Report’s Conclusions

Four general conclusions were drawn from an analysis of the jurisdiction reports:

  • There is a wealth of useful information and guidance for ODR in England and Wales to be obtained from the implementation and use of ODR in other jurisdictions.
  • In practical terms, the technology is available to create a workable ODR system.
  • Ensuring that practical reality, in terms of the design and functionality of an ODR system, lives up to theoretical potential will require investment of time and resources.
  • It is essential for detailed studies to be undertaken in order to determine the success of ODR and to identify areas for improvement.

In short, the true implications of ODR systems for access to justice remain to be seen. Access to justice for all, achievable on a practical as opposed to merely theoretical level, is one of the fundamental principles that must underlie an effective justice system. ODR, if implemented carefully and resourced sufficiently, has the potential to achieve its aims without negatively affecting access to justice. The CPP report concludes that independent, ongoing and thorough research is required to ensure that this fundamental principle is upheld.

You can download the report in full below.

Laws affect us all. They affect much of what we do; from the moment, we have breakfast until the moment we sleep at night. Laws and regulations affect the quality of what we eat the safety of our streets, our workplace conditions, the buildings we live in or rent and our access to essential services. The rule of law, a fundamental condition for democracy requires, that the law is applied equally and fairly, so that no one is above the law and that the law is capable of being known to everyone, so that everyone can comply. Access to legal advice and confidence in the laws administration are key elements of adherence to the Rule of Law.

In France, the system of legal aid is decentralised and the decision to provide legal aid is made by legal aid councils located at each Court. The distribution of the money to the lawyers is made by the national Bar Council and the local Bar Association. There is no merit test for the claim, which is only rejected by the legal aid Council if there is a manifest inadmissibility or a manifest unfoundness.