The Ministry of Justice has published its ‘Implementation Plan’ in response to the recommendations of the ‘Legal Advice at Local Level’ steering group. The plan is here [pdf]. The issue is principally the effects on NFP advice providers of the impact of fixed fee Legal help scheme and the introduction of CLACs and CLANs.
Notable are concerns that fixed fees don’t work for those dealing with particularly complex cases or difficult clients, with an action plan to consider varying the fixed fee scheme, and a study of potential pressures towards cherry-picking.
My jaw dropped at this, though:
We recommend that the LSC should take steps to monitor the impact of the establishment of a CLAC or a CLAN on other funding streams in the area, and should aim to involve other existing funders of local advice in plans for a CLAC or a CLAN wherever possible.
We recommend that the LSC monitors the impact of the establishment of CLACs on local advice providers, including the potential for future competition in the area.
At the time that the Commission consulted on and published the CLS Strategy, an impact assessment was not carried out on the proposed policy to introduce CLACs and CLANs. LSC has agreed that in future a full equalities impact assessment should be carried out as part of the process of setting up a CLAC or CLAN. The EIA will be carried out at the same time as the needs analysis and will be subject to formal consultation. The outcome of this analysis will then inform the specification and performance standards for the service and again there will be consultation on that specification.
Part of the needs analysis and impact assessment will be to identify other funding streams that may be affected as part of the new service. This may be funding that is received by providers who also receive funding from the LSC and/or local authority or funding that is received by other providers. Having identified those other sources of funding, LSC will contact other funders to see what involvement, if any, they would like to have with the joint commissioning process.
So, let me get that straight. CLACS and CLANS as a policy were introduced without carrying out any impact assessment. No impact assessment on other funding streams or apparently on providers, including an Equalities Impact Assessment, has been carried out by the LSC in the setting up of any existing CLAC.
If this is truly the case, I am astonished there hasn’t been a challenge to the establishment of a CLAC or CLACS on that basis, but there we go…