13/05/2007

Street protests and statistical spin

The Constitutional Affairs committee report seems to have galvanised opposition to the reforms, even if met with a profound silence from the LSC/MoJ. What Price JusticeThe Access to Justice Alliance plans a week of action for next week, including demonstrations outside Central London County Court and a meeting at Westminster with the Chair of the committee. One aim, very sensibly, is to ensure the matter doesn’t get lost in the DCA to MoJ transition. Whether the Lord Chancellor will do anything in what is likely to be his remaining few weeks is unclear though.

Meanwhile, the LSC attempts some spin on figures showing a 12.5% increase in civil ‘acts of assistance’ in 2006/7 (an 8% increase in face to face and a 51% increase in CLS Direct phone calls).

According to the Gazette, LSC chief executive Carolyn Regan said:

It is no coincidence that the growth in the number of people helped this year falls within the same period in which a new payment system was introduced for our providers, legal aid lawyers and advice agencies [tailored fixed fees replaced hourly charged rates].

Hmm, tailored fixed fees were introduced well before 06/07, of course, but glossing over that, this would be the new payment system that was scrapped in April 07 would it? A funny way to acknowledge its success.

Ms Regan went on to say:

The current legal aid reforms are specifically about building on this to maximise access to legal aid for the future and to continue increasing the numbers of people helped.

Oh please. The stated aim of the reforms has always been to freeze or reduce the legal aid budget. I know the LSC has to keep on saying these things, but it is something of an exercise in futility.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

1 Comment

  1. Eleanor Wright

    The claimed increased in the number of people helped as a result of fixed fees needs careful analysis. It is quite clear that most Legal Aid firms have changed their working practices directly in response to fixed fees. As a result, where solicitors might previously have given advice on a range of legal issues under one Legal Help form, they are now much more careful about splitting them so that there are separate forms for each separate matter. Secondly, a number of firms which would previously not take on cases which were obviously hopeless, were now signing the client up, advising the case was hopeless, and claiming the fixed fee. In the past they would have given the same advice for free over the telephone. Therefore it is very doubtful whether the claimed increase in people advised is anything like as great as Carolyn Regan claims, and the LSC chooses for its own reasons not to carry out any further analysis on this.

    At a recent meeting I challenged Carolyn Regan and Peter Jones of the LSC on this. They said that it could be just as valuable to give a client negative advice as positive advice – with which none of those present disagreed – but when we asked how they thought it helped the clients to drag them into the office to sign various forms only to receive the same advice they could have had over the phone, neither could reply. Equally they were wholly unable to answer why they wanted to pay us £250 for this pointless exercise in preference to letting us give free telephone advice and using our time on more useful work.

    Reply

Leave a Reply (We can't offer advice on individual issues)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.