Acronym Overkill

As the LAPG point out the LSC have announced their CLS strategy. Central to this are CLACs and CLANs. None the wiser? read on….

The Legal Aid Practitioners Group today commented as follows on the CLS
Strategy published by the Legal Services Commission.
Positive elements
Director Richard Miller said, “There are some positive elements in this
paper. We welcome the commitment to independent, specialist advice. The
principle of better co-ordination of funding and of services is a good
one. And we believe that CLS Direct is worth expanding, so long as this
is not at the expense of face to face services, which are still clearly
many clients’ preferred or only realistic method of getting the help
they need. But there is much to cause concern, particularly the
abandonment of the idea of piloting new initiatives.”
LAPG vice-chair Stephen Hewitt said, “The draft strategy on which the
LSC consulted used the word ‘pilot’ 37 times. The final strategy does
not use the word at all. The LSC has quite unreasonably taken support
for pilots as proposed in the consultation, as support for the system of
CLACs to be rolled out without any piloting. This is no way for a public
body with a duty to consult to operate.”
LAPG was one of the respondents to support piloting CLACs and CLANs.
Richard Miller said, “If you were starting from scratch, the CLAC and
CLAN models would be very good. But we are not starting from scratch,
and there are many risks in getting from where we are to where the
strategy proposes we should go. We do not know if local authorities will
co-operate. We do not know if the Centres can be set up at reasonable
cost. We do not know whether suppliers will be willing and able to work
in the way proposed. We do not know whether clients will in practice be
able to get the help they need when they need it at a Centre. And in
testing all of this out, there is a real risk that existing good
suppliers will be damaged. This is why we supported the proposal for a
pilot, in order to plot a sensible course from where we are to where we
want to be. We have never offered support for an untested roll-out.”
Reliance on telephone services in rural areas
There is a further concern about the decision to withdraw face to face
services from rural areas, and to require clients to rely on telephone
services. Richard Miller said, “The extent to which a client can rely on
a telephone service depends, among other things, on the nature of the
problem, the complexity of the issue, the volume of documentation
involved, and the characteristics of the client. It does not depend to
the slightest extent on whether the client lives in a rural or an urban
area. To say that clients living in rural areas can rely more heavily on
telephone services is irrational.”
Contradictory proposals
The Group is also critical of contradictions as to the future of family
suppliers. Miller said, “The Strategy says that when commissioning
services, the LSC will ‘work to ensure that services are provided in an
integrated way that reflects clients’ needs. This means services that…
are delivered across different categories of law (including linking
social welfare law to family and crime).’ It goes on to say that ‘Family
law contract holders may also hold social welfare contracts but it is
likely that there will not always be a sufficient volume of funded work
to allow or require every family supplier to do so.’ Then it continues,
‘Where a [CLAC] is successful, we may restrict the social welfare
contracts given to other family suppliers.’ I am insufficiently fluent
in doublethink to be able to work out from this what our members who do
family law and other social welfare law services should plan to do if a
CLAC is set up in their area. There is a high probability that these
contradictions will lead to lawyers the Commission still needs
abandoning social welfare law contracts at the first available
opportunity, to the significant detriment of clients.”
Stephen Hewitt concluded, “The bottom line is that without new money, no
strategy is going to help deliver more and better legal advice to the
public. At the very least, there will be significant transitional costs
in moving to new ways of working, which cannot be met from the existing
budget without doing significant damage to the service to clients.”
LAPG is an independent grass roots movement, representing around 700
firms at the heart of the provision of publicly funded legal services.

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