Post by Patrick Torsney on Oct 23, 2006 10:54:18 GMT
Standard Terms Annexes
I've pulled out some interesting bits below – remember to read the full document before responding to the consultation
Annex A - Liaison Annex
A new role
The role of “Liaison Manager” has been created. This would be someone in your organisation who, in the words of the Standard Terms section:
“…means the member of your personnel nominated by you to liaise with us on matters concerning this Contract”
It looks like a combination of the Quality Representative role you would have had before but with an emphasis on the larger compliance with and against the contract - see later section on the Monitoring Annex and requisite responsibilities
No biting or gouging of eyes
There’s now an explicit statement titled “Professional Code” which says that you and the LSC should not shout or be rude to each other – if you do then whoever’s organisation did it must investigate it and take appropriate action, including notifying the other side what has been done
Annex B - Media Annex
It’s a kind of social policy?
The LSC says it is developing a case studies database of clients and suppliers who are willing to talk to the media and that this is to promote the value of your work and legal aid generally, demonstrating in particular the positive impact that legal aid has on people’s lives
Your Relationship (or Account) Manager at the LSC may ask you about providing this kind of information – there is a standard two-page form which has been on the LSC website since April 06, and can be downloaded here:
There are a few interesting bits in this section – the following are some that jumped out at me
Client service and file review procedures
Here you find the comparable provisions to the previous sections of the SQM concerned with Client Care at the outset, during and at the end of the case
Also, requirements to have some form of file review procedure and 'client satisfaction'
You’ve also got to monitor and take appropriate corrective action wherever necessary in respect of the quality of advice and other legal work you provide and also clients’ perceptions of the service they receive from you (read ‘client satisfaction’ survey’s)
Two other ones:
You need a procedure for covering the instruction of any third parties and also a complaints procedure
All in all pretty basic stuff and not much if at all different to what you are already doing. I will be speaking to CLS Support about this to see if we can come up with some guidance on simplifying procedures so that you might be able to make some ‘savings’ given the relative relaxation of what were previous SQM requirements
Annex E - Monitoring Annex
You need to pay attention to this one!
It explains that you are responsible for your own performance and compliance – that you must maintain a record of your monitoring of performance and compliance (and of any corrective action and the results of it)
It’s not as straightforward as it first seems. The idea here is that this is the payback for the LSC not being so intrusive in terms of monitoring your work via audit etc as it has done in the past
Basically, you need to be able to produce evidence that you are monitoring the required areas and taking corrective action so that the LSC doesn’t have to come in and do it itself (see required 'Records' below)
Your monitoring records must include:
how any client complaints have been handled
the results of any client satisfaction surveys
the results and reports of any internal (by you) and external (by us or a third party) audits (such as audits of your compliance with the Q.A. Standard by any third party)
your performance against the Performance Indicators
all identified non-compliances and the corrective action taken
details of the operation of your equality and diversity policies, procedures and communications and a candid assessment of their effectiveness
And this is what you need to do with all this information:
“By 28 February in each year, you must have created an annual report on your performance and compliance (and any corrective action and the results of it) in the previous year (from 1 January to 31 December). This should include details of numbers of Clients helped, Claims and payments, numbers of personnel, offices etc. The annual report should also include statistics showing, in respect of clients and your personnel, their age group, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability (if any).”
Annex F - Approved Personnel and Supervisors Annex
Straightforward stuff, largely around who can do contract work and who can be supervisors. Also includes something on whether you need to follow any recruitment procedures
Annex G - Key Performance Indicator Annex
This section covers the Key Performance Standards you must meet in performing contract work. It will likely be necessary to consider these as part of your monitoring and review of work as per the Monitoring Annex E
The four Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Standards are:
Independent Peer Review
Fixed Fee Margin
Have a look at the actual document for the detail. Importantly, the LSC say it is not going to use non-compliance with any of these KPI’s as a breach of contract but, it does say, the extent to which you are meeting them might raise questions and give rise to further monitoring
Annex H - LSC Consultation Code Annex
Read the document for the detail. Straightforward stuff on who the LSC will consult with if it wants to amend any contract document
Annex I - Fundamental Breach Annex
This section describes, and gives examples, of the types of Fundamental Breach of contract that might occur and subsequent action that may be taken. There are four types of Fundamental Breach described: A to D
Fundamental Breach D: Dishonesty
The LSC says that dishonest would normally justify termination of the contract under common law; here however, they also say it is a type of Fundamental Breach described under the contract which gives rise to specific remedies to the LSC under the contract should it occur
The LSC points out some of the things that they have come across in the past (through audits) and which they believe were dishonest. It looks like the LSC Contract Lawyers Team have slotted all this in to tighten up the contract and the options available to the LSC if they come across it again
Naughty things found previously:
Newly created backdated attendance notes just prior to audit to justify time claims made and work allegedly done
Backdated letters, including client care letters, to falsely give the impression that the file had been properly managed
In both of the examples given above the LSC states that unless the instances were isolated then it may result in termination of contract
Annex J - TUPE ANNEX
All about TUPE - see the document
Remember that all the proposals listed above are currently subject to consultation
If you have any comments on the UC Standard Terms Annexes section that you want to share on this forum then please feel free to reply to this message
I deliver a 0.75 debt contract and so I look at the obligations of a contract holder of the new Unified Contract knowing that I shall receive the lowest fixed fee (£127 proposed for debt cases)
I am obliged not to unlawfully discriminate against those with disabilities (UC Std Terms Section 2 para 19) but those with Mental Health and communications problems take much longer than the average.
I am obliged not to discrimate on grounds of race (Section 2 para 18) but anybody with a poor command of English takes much longer to deal with than a competent English speaker with a similar problem.
The new fixed fee imposes a regime that indirectly discriminates against the disabled and certain minorities. If NfP providers take no account of thier mix of cases their costs are likely to well exceed the low fixed fee. If they have other funding and can accept LSC funding as a subsidy then all well and good but if the contract is self supporting they are at risk of failing if they take more than a small percentage of difficult clients. One can predict contracts being dropped where the vulnerable are more numerous (contracts not viable) and maintained where the demographic mix is favourable. I do not believe that this is the LSC's aim but it is the likely result.
If I believed that for-profit providers were champing at the bit to ramp up capacity to deliver new services then I would not be too concerned for my clients but there is currently a dearth of such providers in my area (Bristol) and the new contract is unlikely to be an inducement to new entrants.
I run a single welfare benfit contract and work for a mental health charity taking most referrals from the secondary mental health team. Most of my client's have severe and enduring mental health problems. Therefore, by the nature of the client's problems, they take longer to deal with.
Having recently attended the CAAN annual conference it saddened me to hear the comments from the LSC rep concerning exceptional circumstances causing higher case costs.