Conference hears ‘fraudulent firms’ are to blame for legal aid bureaucracy
The ‘fraudulent behaviour’ of some legal aid firms is to blame for the increased bureaucratic burden being imposed by the Legal Aid Agency, according to its director of commissioning and strategy, Hugh Barrett.
Barrett made the comment at the Legal Aid Practitioners Group annual conference in Birmingham, in response to a question from Law Society head of legal aid Richard Miller (pictured below left), over whether the LAA would look at relaxing the growing administrative demands it puts on firms.
During his earlier speech, Miller told the 150 lawyers at the conference that LASPO had been a ‘slap in the face to practitioners’ and was ‘causing massive injustice’ for many people ‘with day-to-day problems which are not being solved’. He added that, ‘however dark it gets, the spark of justice will not be extinguished’ and promised that the LawSociety would continue to campaign on access to justice.
LAPG co-chair Jenny Beck (pictured) said: ‘It is very hard for legal aid practitioners to leave behind some of the most vulnerable’ who are no longer able to obtain civil legal aid.’
Barrett told the conference there had been a 27 per cent reduction in spending at the Ministry of Justice over the last parliament. He added that the LASPO scope and other changes had led to a drop in civil firms from 2,600 to 1,800; the number of not-for-profit organisations with LAA contracts dropped from 450 to 250.
LAPG director Carol Storer (pictured below right) said: ‘I am always impressed by the resilience of firms and other providers as they struggle to continue to provide an excellent service to their clients.’ She added, though, that ‘the government and the LAA continue to take their goodwill for granted’.