Post by Mr Fiona T. Wardle on Mar 12, 2008 14:47:26 GMT
Not exactly a response to the above, but I don't know where else to put this...
Our local MP happens to be Alan Beith - for those of you who don't know, Chair of the Justice Committee (or Constitutional ASffairs Committee as was). He recently atended one of our Management Committee meetings to listen to our experiences of operating under the fixed-fee contract. As a result of this, he has written a letter (we haven't actually seen it yet) to Caroline Reagan, which has trickled its way down to our local LSc office, and prompted our Relationship Manager and (?) Contract Manager to visit us last week. They started out rather from a very dfensive position, I must say, but we assured them our own gripes were not with them, but rather with the policy as a whole, hence our MP writing to Caroline Reagan. They have suggested we have an "educational audit" to see if they can't pass on some good practices to us from other audits they have done. Whilst this obviously will not solve things, we are happy to do this - we haven't actually been audited for some considerable time - 3 or more years I think. I will happily pass on anything of value that crops up, as well as sharing anything our MP passes back to us. I have to say, whilst we had some moans at the MP about front line casework, as a small charity, a lot of our complaints were to do with "transitional arrangements" and "buffer zones" and CLS online and additional reporting requirements. and frankly they had little to offer us in these respects...
Post by Patrick Torsney on Mar 19, 2008 9:08:06 GMT
Would it be possible for you to get a copy of the letter to Caroline Reagan? It would be interesting to see what your MP had to say, particularly given his role on the CAC
I do hope your local LSC RO contacts weren't upset by you contacting your MP with concerns you might have about the impact of the scheme on your organisation/clients - that, after all, is what MPs are there for. It isn't a matter of going over their heads unnecessarily; as you say - your LSC Regional Office is pretty powerless when it comes to LSC Online/the transition process/buffer zones (although they will be making decisions on any applications organisations might make to avoid reconciliation if outside the buffers)
However, I'm glad your LSC Regional Office is being proactive in terms of offering feedback through audit, it is really the best they can do and hopefully it will be useful for all concerned
Let us know how you get on with it, it's good to get these things out in the open where we can all see and discuss them
P.S. Will they also be doing an "educational" costs assessment audit? I ask because when the LSC did these back in 2003 the fact that they were educational caused its own problems, particularly where people wanted to 'appeal' or argue assessment decisions but there was no formal avenue to do so. From all the feedback I got nationally, by and large, the impact of an educational (costs assessment) audit was not in any real sense enabling for the organisations concerned
Post by Mr Fiona T. Wardle on Mar 20, 2008 14:02:02 GMT
We are trying to get a copy of the MP letter. We have seen CR's response to him - y'all could have written it yourselves of course, just pick and mix from the paragraphs in so many other stock responses to criticisms of the current set up - but we still haven't seen our MP's actual letter.
I don't think our RO was annoyed at our speaking with the MP. As I said, they did start aggressive/defensive, but it was a useful meeting to have at the end. We always liked our RO and FM actually, they have always responded to queries effectively and honestly, and our opinion of them hasn't really changed that much. They are just in the wrong jobs!!
I don't think we are having a costs assessment edu audit...will keep you posted.
Post by Mr Fiona T. Wardle on Jun 4, 2008 11:58:38 GMT
Well, we had our "friendly audit". There wasn't much in effect that they could help us with, but there was one worrying aspect, which we have to keep an eye on, and maybe others should too.
The area of concern was about not keeping to an average of 80% of the fixed fee for all cases. Now, we countered this with our view that (a) they only "audited" 5 debt cases, 5 WB cases (all closed) (as well as looking at 2 ongoing cases from each worker on the day), and it will be the case that there is bound to be a weighting of shorter cases closed which fall into the post-October regime (the only cases they did look at), and over a longer period of time, this would balance out. However, the impression we got was that they would not have been overly impressed with our argument if it had been a real audit. We felt as if the audit team were very much on the loko-out for "cherry picking", and suspect this may be one of their main concerns at this time.
Of course, the on-line KPI checker is still not available...The auditors drawn down (from where??) reports did not match our own in several respects...
Time recording is vital. Anybody who is still working under the misaprehension that with fixed fees, time recording is less important than it used to be needs to get rid of this idea, and quick!
But overall, as we expected, and despite the seemingly patronising initial approach (we can help you identify good working practices which will help you acheive the contract....) no magic wands available from LSC!
Post by Patrick Torsney on Jun 12, 2008 9:05:16 GMT
Thanks for letting us know what happened wardoll, this kind of thing is exactly what this Forum is all about
Yes, the LSC will increasingly focus on the Fixed Fee Margin (one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) in the UC Standard Terms). The LSC told me yesterday that this is something that their account managers will be talking to organisations about in the coming few weeks
This KPI is designed to pick up when organisations might be as you say cherry-picking (purposefully selecting shorter cases rather than longer more complex ones) or are splitting matters inappropriately
The KPI says that your average case cost must not be lower than 80% of the fixed fee relevant to the category of law being looked at. Remember, it is about average case costs (the total costs of all your cases divided by the number of cases). It does NOT mean that each case must be within the KPI
This KPI is also looked at by subject category so you could be OK in Debt but fail it in Housing for example
Of course there are other reasons why an organisation might have low average case costs and wardoll quite rightly points out the time recording issue. It is vital that organisations properly record the time they are spending on file and that this is input into the software you use to convert into costs information (to be ultimately reported to the LSC on closure of the matter).
I imagine that a considerable number of organisations are under-recording on file. With lower costs being reported nationally, ironically this could be taken to indicate that the fixed fees are too high
A common problem
I'm regularly coming across organisations that are not claiming properly for non-standard letters. For example, they may write on file that a letter took 30 minutes to put together but then when it is input into their software they use the wrong code i.e. they input it as a standard letter to be paid at the unit rate. Letters that are longer than 6 minutes need to be input as preparation so that you charge the full cost to the individual case
Does it matter if we fail this KPI?
There seem to be mixed messages going around about meeting the KPIs. It's very common for people to say "well it doesn't constitute a breach of contract so there's nothing to worry about."
Well, these people are correct, it doesn't constitute a breach of contract but that doesn't mean that the LSC can't take action where you are failing it!
Whilst failing this KPI (or any other) is not in itself currently a breach of contract, from 1st April 2008 it does allow the LSC to amend your Office Schedule and reduce your NMS allocation if it chooses to (see Standard Terms 11A.4.)
The LSC is unable to reduce your NMS allocation for failing to meet this (fixed fee margin) KPI until at least six months has elapsed since your first Office Schedule came into force under this Contract. Despite your first Schedule coming into force in April 2007, for NfP organisations working under the fixed fee scheme the “calculation period” began six months after they were issued with their first Schedule with a NMS allocation ie six months after 1st October 2007
This means, that from 1st April this year the LSC have had the power to reduce NMS allocations where the KPI isn't being met
THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN SUPERSEDED BY MORE RECENT DECISIONS TAKEN BY THE LSC EG THE RECENT DECISION NOT TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST ORGANISATIONS FAILING THE FFM KPI OR THE NMS UPTAKE KPI UNTIL APRIL 2009. FURTHER INFORMATION ON HOW THE FFM IS CALCULATED AND IMPACT (OR NOT) OF EXCEPTIONAL CASES ON THIS CAN BE FOUND IN OTHER SECTIONS OF THE FORUM EG 'YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED' SECTION