I had a discussion last week with a staff member from LSC. In the course of the conversation he opined that the new contracts for nfp would be implemented in April as per the Carter recommendations i.e. fixed fees, based on NMS, minimum size of contract, in all areas of law except Family. He thought there would be no change for family law practitioners until the proposed fixed fee scheme had been revised.
He stated that their office is producing the 07/08 contracts based on this approach.
Being paranoid, I instantly suspected a continuing nfp / solicitor divide - with the solictors' complaints being taken seriously while nfp concerns are ignored (based on my assumption, possibly erroneous, that fewer solicitors hold contracts in the other areas of law).
I can sympathise with LSC staff who will be expected to get relevant documentation out at very short notice, and I can see why they would start work now based on their best guess of what will be required.
Here is the text of my email response to the consultation - picking up on points that Cit A have made.... Here are the views of Kingston Citizens Advice service on some of the proposals in the draft unified contract from LSC – which is out for consultation until 21st November 2006.
Requirement for Directors of Companies limited by guarantee to sign personal guarantee to indemnify the LSC against any monies paid which the LSC then demand back – the first point is some confusion over why the monies would be ‘clawed back’ if the intention to pay in arrears comes into force. However, if there is such a requirement, for whatever reason, then it is not acceptable, or practical for Trustees to hold a personal responsibility on this. One of the key issues which the voluntary sector are addressing at the moment is that of good governance, and there is a widespread move to strengthen local Trustee Boards, so that agencies are able to become as effective and efficient as possible and to demonstrate this to the local community and funders. However, one of the areas of concern that Trustees have is the level of liability that is held when on a Board. This is one of the key reasons why agencies become companies limited by guarantee, so that financial liability is restricted; this intention would be overturned if a personal guarantee was then sought and the effect of this would be to make it even harder to recruit Trustees. This would be to the detriment of the voluntary sector locally and nationally and it would be a retrogressive step at a time when central Government is emphasizing the need for local authorities to work in closer partnership with the voluntary sector.. If the agency were to make up the shortfall then the ramification of this would be that individual services could go bankrupt as it is unlikely that there would be sufficient reserves to meet demands. The issue of reserves is a complex one in the not for profit sector, as whilst Trustee Boards aim to hold reserves, as a measure of prudence, such reserves can mitigate against their fundraising efforts as some funders will not make grants if reserves are held, stating that the agency should use those monies first. Therefore, this clause is totally unacceptable and must be removed
At initial interview, no work can be claimed that is done before the CW1 is signed – whilst it is recognized that it is good practice to have the CW1 form signed as soon as possible when a client contacts the agency, there may well be good reasons why this is not practical. For instance, if the client is distressed or does not have English as a first language. In such situations, it will be necessary to spend time developing a rapport with the client, rather than rushing them to fill out a form. This measure could lead to further ‘cherry picking’ of clients, and, as with the fixed fee proposals, the clients who are most vulnerable and socially excluded would be the ones to suffer through being turned away and thus not able to access justice. This clause should be removed or amended to allow for support to vulnerable clients.
Advice to clients who have been given advice already by another supplier – any work will have to be done under the same fee – this could lead to problems if the client wishes to complain about the first practitioner and therefore the clause should be amended to allow for this eventuality
28 days notice for changing forms – as most of these will be electronically reported on and therefore require software changes, 28 days may not be enough to effect the necessary software updates on all machines used – for instance we have nearly 30 computers and it will take time to make the changes, especially as our maintenance is done by an external contract who only works on certain days in the month for us . This clause should be amended to allow for enough time to make changes
New Matter starts will be ‘tightened up’ – during the consultation on the Carter report, Vera Baird and Crispin Passmore were reported as stating that one of the reasons that nfp suppliers cases were above average time was because we did not use enough new matter starts. The proposed contract will make it harder to use more matter starts and this is in conflict with the message given by Vera Baird and Crispin Passmore. It is not acceptable to have such contradictions and the views put forward by Vera and Crispin should be upheld and the contract amended to make it easier to start new matters for clients, so that contract targets can be met.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed unified contract. My final point is that I wish to express my dissatisfaction with the consultation process for this document, the timing was not acceptable as it is an important document and the consultation period ran too quickly after that for the Carter report. Many agencies have very limited resources and will experience difficulty in responding as so much time has already been taken up by the Carter consultation. This proposed contract is too important a document to be rushed through as some of the elements of it have potential for far reaching and negative impact for nfp suppliers in particular. I am also concerned that as this is in the ‘slip stream’ of Carter it could be perceived that the intention was to use the Carter review as a distraction for ‘burying bad news’. I think that this will be a conclusion that will be drawn and that this would reflect badly on the LSC. I think that this is regrettable.
Post by Patrick Torsney on Jan 11, 2007 13:14:23 GMT
The LSC intends to introduce in April new Standard Terms + annexes, Contracts for Signature and Schedules, which they are consulting on with ASA LAPG and the Law Society at the moment - ASA had raised a considerable number of concerns with the original drafts
The 'Way Ahead' document says that the LSC will issue a draft 'for final consultation, until the end of January' (p.52) but it is not clear what this means. We understand that the LSC intend to post a draft on their website in the near future....
In respect of the Specification section, the 'Way Ahead' says:
"The Unified Contract will contain revised Standard Terms, but the Contract Specification will remain largely in its current form until introduction of the new fee schemes in October 2007. Changes to the Specification to implement the fee schemes will be consulted upon."
Sorry I can't give you anything more concrete as yet - I will update you and the forum as soon as I hear something