Phased implementation of family legal aid fees a move in the right direction

22 Jun 2007

Resolution today welcomed the decision by the Legal Services Commission to phase in the introduction of the new fixed fees for family legal aid work. The new fixed fees scheme will mean family legal aid practices have to make radical changes which could impact on families’ access to legal help. A more gradual approach makes sense and gives providers time to implement the necessary changes.

“The family legal aid network is extremely fragile. If we are to avoid meltdown in the provision of family legal aid, a period of stability is now essential. Time must be allowed for the full impact of these changes to be properly assessed before any further changes are introduced,” said David Emmerson, Chair of Resolution’s legal aid committee.

“Whilst we still have concerns about some of the details of the new scheme but we are pleased that the Commission has listened and taken on board a number of the issues raised with them. In particular the delay in rolling out fixed fees to those cases fully engaged in the court process is welcome.”

The new fixed fee regime which will begin to rollout in October has been introduced in the context of the existing rules for family legal aid work and Resolution is calling on the Commission to ensure that no further changes to the rules or contract are introduced for at least six months to ensure that the fixed fee changes really are cost neutral.

“It is vital that the Commission allow the new fees to ‘bed down’ and assess the successes and problems of the schemes before introducing any further changes,” Mr Emmerson said.

Resolution is calling for solicitor advocates to receive the same fee as barristers for the time they spend preparing their case for court and urged the Commission to make full details available of what “best value tendering” will mean in practice.

“This is a period of unprecedented change for publicly funded lawyers and the Commission needs to avoid overloading the family network further by introducing further reforms too hastily. We must now embark on a campaign to increase the funding for Legal Aid” said David Emmerson.

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:
David Emmerson
Resolution, Chair of Legal Aid Committee
Mobile: 07976 702597
Office: 0208 514 9000

Teresa Richardson
Resolution, Head of Communications
Mobile: 07894 981020
Direct line: 020 7357 9215