Resolution urges caution on family help pilots

27 Sep 2005

Family law group Resolution is urging its members to delay participating in the LSC family help pilots until discussions with the Legal Services Commission are concluded. The organisation has written to members in the eight pilot regions, and has called for an urgent meeting with the commission to discuss the issues it raises.

Says Resolution’s David Emmerson, chair of its Legal Aid and Costs Committee: “the commission put forward the terms for the Family Help pilot, which is due to start on 1st October. At a meeting in August with the Commission, Resolution sought improvements to the proposed scheme; some changes were made as a result, but Resolution’s Legal Aid Committee did not think these changes went far enough.

“The Committee is of the view that it could not recommend that firms join the pilot under the current financial terms. We recognise that some of the pilot’s terms offer advantages by reducing bureaucracy and the inappropriate compulsory referral to mediation.”

Resolution has sought an urgent meeting with the Commission to seek improvements to the scheme in the following ways:
That the Commission gives an undertaking that firms participating in the pilot do not lose out
That accredited panel members receive an additional 15% enhancement
That the pilot recognises the value of solicitor advocacy
That the pilot fixed fees recognise the variation in cases, due to factors such as regional difference in client case mixes, mental health issues and cases with a foreign element.

Mr Emmerson continued, “it would be unfair to both the firms themselves and the LSC, if decisions were made about participation in this pilot before the discussions are concluded. We will publicise our final recommendations shortly.”

David Emmerson has urged members not to take a final decision about signing up for the pilot until it is known whether Resolution has had any success in improving the terms of the pilot.