IAS Rolling News update

Resolving the loss of a major Legal Aid firm may well become a common feature of the “fewer, larger supplier” world that the policy makers continue to try and create.
The scale of this involves an estimated 10-12k live cases. Also, as we initially suspected, there is a Financial Stewardship element to this with a recoupment described as “amounting to several millions of pounds”.
The LSC are moving fast on the former problem, finding replacement representatives for such a large number of clients. As you will see this is being undertaken on a priority basis -unaccompanied minors with a hearing in the next 3-weeks first.
The quote regarding the financial situation was lifted from a recent Hansard entry which you can continue to read via the link below.

Immigration Advisory Service
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): It is with regret that the trustees of the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) decided that the organisation had to enter into administration on Friday 8 July 2011.
This is clearly a sad situation for all involved. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has worked closely with IAS over the last few years and IAS has received substantial support to help them manage their cash flow and run its business within the LSC’s contracted payment system. When LSC took over responsibility in 2004 for funding IAS, the LSC agreed to more favourable transitional arrangements with IAS than were agreed with other not-for-profit organisations.
However, a recent contract compliance audit by the Legal Services Commission, has provisionally identified that a material proportion (amounting to several millions of pounds) of the £15 million paid annually to IAS is over or misclaimed work. This is often where the work carried out does not have appropriate documentation to prove its validity, most commonly where there is a lack of evidence confirming clients’ eligibility. As well as this, work was conducted which was not within the scope of public funding. The LSC, as a responsible public body, is rightly seeking to recoup this money. It is of course crucial that the Government achieve value for public money and the LSC must be able to demonstrate to the Comptroller and Auditor General that it is in control of the funds it administers and takes appropriate action where the terms of its contracts are not complied with.
There have been extensive efforts on the parts of both IAS and the LSC to negotiate a solution to the current financial position, but the scale of the debt, coupled with projected income levels, has led the trustees to conclude that placing the organisation in administration is a necessary step. The current position reflects the company’s past financial management and claims irregularities and is not a direct consequence of the proposed legal aid reforms, not least because these reforms have yet to be implemented.
The primary concern for the Government and the LSC is now to ensure clients of IAS continue to get the help they need. The LSC expects that the administration of IAS will allow a managed close down process of IAS’s activities and an orderly transfer of clients to new providers. Provisional arrangements have been made to ensure that any emergency cases are dealt with speedily, meanwhile the LSC is identifying alternative advice provision in the areas affected and arrangements for case transfer will follow as soon as possible.
There is a significant long-term interest in this work from other providers, both not for profit organisations and private solicitor firms. The LSC ran a tender round for new immigration and asylum contracts in October last year and there was an increase in the number of offices that applied to do the work and bids for more than double the amount of cases that were available. All immigration and asylum providers are expected to meet the same high-quality standards which include compulsory accreditation schemes for all advisers and supervisors, and as such I believe the interests of the clients being transferred will be protected.

About Author: SP

One comment on “IAS Rolling News update

  • It is ridiculous to say that legal aid reforms played no part in this debacle. If we accept that the LSC is right (and I reserve judgement on that point) that there has been a massive overpayment, and that the LSC were willing to negotiate a solution, then the only reason that IAS went under is because the trustees must have looked at projected cash flow following the cuts and worked out that they could not pay it back whilst running the business at the same time. In other words they knew that the cuts (and let’s not call them reforms please) meant that their income would be drastically cut.
    One point of interest in this little clip above is that IAS were given preferential payment terms that were not available to other providers. That in itself is scandalous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *