Last updated:2023-09-18
Problems with CCMS continue
CCMS (client and cost management system), the Legal Aid Agency’s (LAA) online system for all applications for civil legal aid, became mandatory from 1 April. This was despite lastditch calls from LAG and legal aid practitioners for a postponement due to problems with the system.
The system is designed to process both applications and bills in civil legal aid cases, which include family, housing, asylum, judicial review and other areas of law. In response to the concerns about CCMS, the LAA announced on its website that practitioners would be able to continue to make paper applications for civil legal aid when they are ‘unable to progress the matter using CCMS’. It admitted there had been problems with its online portal that affected a number of users, but argued that these were now fixed.
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The LAA had planned to make the use of CCMS compulsory for all civil legal aid applications from October last year, but was forced to put back this deadline due to problems with the program. Carol Storer (pictured), director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG), had publicly threatened to resign if the LAA had not listened to the concerns of legal aid lawyers (June 2015 Legal Action 4). The deadline for implementation slipped again from 1 February 2016 to the beginning of this month.
Practitioners have been telling Legal Action that the new version of the program is more user-friendly, but the latest problems now seem to be related to the underlying IT infrastructure at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). At the beginning of March, the system was unavailable over the weekend. Officials at the LAA, when questioned by practitioner groups, were unable to give an explanation.
Throughout recent months, practitioners have been complaining that CCMS is too slow or they have been completely unable to get onto the system. According to some, it is quicker to apply on paper for legal aid than to use CCMS. A couple of firms told Legal Action that they were accessing CCMS outside normal office hours as it was too slow to use at other times.
The Law Society and groups representing practitioners were still calling for a further delay before CCMS became compulsory, as they fear that the IT infrastructure at the MoJ cannot cope with the extra traffic. According to Carol Storer, the LAA’s announcement is ‘wholly inadequate and will impede the ability of practitioners to deliver services to vulnerable clients’. LAPG is asking legal aid providers to report any concerns to the LAA and to keep ‘a record of extra time spent on legal aid applications because the LAA has confirmed that ex gratia payments can be claimed’.