I attended one of the consultations on preferred supplier and put the point to Brian Harvey that the LSC wanted more for less - he disputed this by saying that ,for the firms that became preferred suppliers there would be MORE resources - rather missing my point that there would be less firms and those of us that manage to 'hang on in there' will be subject to high levels of scrutiny and bureaucracy.
There is nothing that I have seen now in the Carter report which make me change my mind; so I am still of the view that the LSC intention is 'more for less' which cannot be good for clients as it will inevitably knock out suppliers who do not have the critical mass to be successful... legal aid deserts loom again???
This seems to be about economies of scale with the emphasis on fewer and larger organisations. Inevitably this will favour large call-centre based organisations at the expense of smaller ones which arguably provide a more taylored, personal and therefore more effective service, with more local relevance.
The LSC's keenness on CLS Direct shows that it is in favour of the call-centre approach. It is also taking steps to cut back on outreach as it perceives this as costly and time-wasting. We see the vast majority of our clients through outreach, including many who simply could not access the service if they had to do so by phone. It is time-consuming as we cover a large and very rural area with bad transport links, but it is essential as these clients have no other access to legal advice and cannot travel to us.
If the Preferred Supplier scheme cuts out small local providers, accessibility will suffer and overall outcomes are unlikely to be as good as they are now, in our area at any rate.