The LSC pledges to cut the number of civil legal aid bills being incorrectly rejected

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has assured that it would find ways of cutting down on the number of civil legal aid bills that are incorrectly rejected.

The commission is going to work along with The Law Society, The Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) and family lawyers group Resolution, to examine how it could help reduce payment delays and the resulting cash flow delays.

Jenny Beck, LAPG’s co-chair and head of professional practice at the Co-op’s family law service, said that delays could put some practices into financial jeopardy.

Practitioners – mainly legal aid lawyers – are frustrated and  keep sending a lot of emails and phone calls to the LAPG for the delays caused in processing their bills.

If the documents were not needed to be returned an additional 1,000 bills could be paid each week the LSC says.

The LSC conceded that many bills were incorrectly rejected because of inconsistent application of guidance.

But the commission asked practitioners to play their part in the process by ensuring their bills were correct before submission, while it assesses the information given to practitioners regarding changes in procedures.

LSC chief executive Matthew Coats said this was “a joint problem that requires a joint solution.”

By working together, the error rate could be radically reduced and the time wasted on rejects. Providers getting it right first time were only part of the solution; it also needed to be corrected at the LSC.

Steve Hynes, director of Legal Aid Group welcomed the news and told that the LSC has been in a state of constant turmoil over the last decade due to reviews and changes of policy.

From whatever information available the problem seemed to be getting acute, with claims rejected often on flimsy grounds.

A period of calm in which the remaining legal aid system was administered more competently would benefit all parties, especially clients. The only problem was that experience showed this was unlikely to happen, which has to be proved wrong.

Law Society president Lucy Scott Montcrieff said that they were looking forward to see improvements in LSC processes and greater clarity about requirements.

Find out more about legal aid in Scotland for comparison purposes in this interview with Mark Thorley in respect of Scottish legal aid here.

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