‘Meltdown’ warning if LAA pushes ahead with CCMS plan
Introducing the Legal Aid Agency’s case management system will result in ‘meltdown of the legal aid system and chaos for clients’, unless problems with it are resolved, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group is warning.
The LAA’s cost and case management system (CCMS) is ‘not fit for purpose … and it is unclear whether it can be fixed,’ says the group in its Manifesto for Legal Aid. It calls on the LAA to scrap plans to make CCMS compulsory for all firms from October 2015, pending a formal independent review of its effectiveness. Foisting CCMS on the profession in its current form would be ‘foolhardy’, it says.
Concerns about CCMS have been brewing behind the scenes for many months, but this is the first time LAPG has gone public with the extent of its fears about its shortcomings. LAPG and other practitioner groups, including Resolution, have devoted many hours of unpaid time, working with the LAA to pilot and improve CCMS, but are now concluding the defects may be too serious to be rectified.
LAPG says that although some £31m of public money has been spent on CCMS over the past three years, it is not a bespoke product, designed to meet the needs of providers or clients. Management consultant Vicky Ling previously pointed out that, despite its title, CCMS can’t actually be used by firms to manage cases. ‘Implementing CCMS may make people less productive, especially at first,’ she said (March 2015 Legal Action 16).
Users of the system report that legal aid applications and other tasks take many hours longer using CCMS than they did previously.
LAPG insists it supports use of technology where this results in better service for firms, clients, or the LAA, but adds that no more money should be spent on CCMS until it has been independently established whether its failings can be rectified. If it can’t, ‘a new system which works needs to be commissioned’.
LAPG’s manifesto also calls for a new discretion to grant legal aid to litigants in person, where the delays caused by their representing themselves would cost the taxpayer more than the cost of providing them with legal advice.
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