Ministry of Justice
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Family legal aid reforms put vulnerable families and children first

The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission yesterday published new fee structures for family legal aid.

This new structure is the latest phase in the government's legal aid reform programme and aims to put legal aid expenditure on a sustainable level to help ensure that our resources are prioritised effectively to help those most in need.

It comes as a result of a comprehensive consultation process and will see hourly rates replaced with standard fees. This will ensure that both barristers and solicitor advocates will receive the same rate for the same advocacy work.

The scheme reflects the feedback that was received from stakeholders during the consultation process In particular, the scheme introduces more graduation into the fee structure to ensure those advocates who take on more difficult cases are better rewarded than those who take on less complex cases.

It has also been confirmed that the proposal to remove payment for independent social work from legal aid scope in private law cases will not been implemented. The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission (LSC) will continue to work with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and Cafcass to determine the best way to use mutual resources for the benefit of vulnerable children.

Legal Aid Minister, Willy Bach said:

'Family legal aid is an essential service, which supports some of the most vulnerable members of our society – often adults and children at risk of abuse.

'Approximately £580 million was spent on family proceedings in 2007/08, and I am determined that our finite legal aid budget is sustainable and prioritised effectively, to help those most in need.

'The reforms published today provide a sensible way forward, which responds to comments made during the consultation process.

'Family law practitioners perform an invaluable service, and it is only right that they are paid a fair rate which properly compensates them for the challenges of the job they have performed.'

Carolyn Regan, Chief Executive of the LSC, said:

'We listened carefully to solicitors and barristers during the consultation. We agree with their view that they should be paid equally for equal work and that vulnerable clients must be protected. 

'The changes we are making achieve both these goals. They will safeguard high quality family law services for children and other vulnerable clients by controlling future growth in costs that would otherwise put all services at risk. They will ensure fairness so that all advocates will be paid the same for doing the same challenging work.'

The LSC will shortly publish the response and impact assessment on their website and we plan to introduce the new schemes in the new civil contracts in October 2010.

Notes to editors

  1. Media Enquiries contact Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536
  2. The proposed legal aid funding reforms are outlined in a formal consultation.

 

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