Post by the message mover on Sept 25, 2006 7:41:40 GMT
There are some good case studies on housing cases elsewhere in this forum - for example, see hgvseven and colinhenderson's example in the 'calling all caseworkers' section
In addition there are some comments on good practice and compliance in respect of housing cases
The following points were picked out from the calling all caseworkers section and concern compliance with the contract rules and the effects of court attendance on average case times
"Travel and waiting:
I'm aware anecdotally of varying practice between advisers when claiming travel and waiting time, although the contract does state that you should apportion the waiting time when attending court with two or more clients between them (NfP spec 4.17(3)). There isn’t any similar rule regarding apportionment of travel time although, unless your LSC Account Manager has said otherwise, it seems to make sense to apportion it in the same way: between the cases
If you've not already done so, worth checking with your Account Manager or CLS Support to avoid any prob if audited?
Similarly, in terms of maximising time then I see no reason not to claim the total time spent in travelling to court or otherwise, including walking to the bus stop, waiting for a bus etc. Travel time isn’t only that time you claim whilst actually on public transport or driving in your car – it’s the total time it takes you to get to the event to which you are travelling. In any event, the LSC does have mechanisms within the contract which allow it to make amendments to the amounts of travel and waiting you are allowed to claim during any period if it has serious concerns that you are claiming too much e.g. when compared to other organisations
Waiting but seeing other people whilst at court:
I’m not aware of this ever being addressed with the LSC: assisting other people you come across at court whilst claiming the waiting time for the client you originally went with to assist. I know it may not be an issue that your Account Manager would want notice or bother with given what you say you are doing and the fact that it theoretically means the Clerk or Usher will move you up the list (and so reduce the waiting time you would otherwise claim)
But if s/he did, it wouldn’t surprise me if the LSC took the view that it shouldn’t be paying for your waiting time if you were undertaking other activities for other people/clients whilst you were meant to be ‘waiting’, however noble your intentions might be. If you were claiming time on another case e.g. whilst advising another client at court then you certainly shouldn't double-claim. It might be worth remembering this if it ever comes up in discussion with your Account Manager
A final thought...
It does strike me that the amount of travel/waiting could significantly affect your average case times if you perform more court work than other organisations – here your case time for the case you went to court with was approximately 1.5 hours higher than it would be if you hadn’t gone to court (assuming you apportioned both travel and waiting between the two clients) – of course if you hadn’t have gone you might have spent a little more time preparing the client and/or writing a letter to court on their behalf
ASA picks up this point in its initial response to the consultation (para 2.9): that there is a correlation between the time spent on cases and the stage at which they completed"
Please share your ideas on tips on performing housing casework - click 'reply' to this message below
At the moment we are undertaking a time recording exercise to see where all our time is spent and it has provided an useful insight. We have been timing everything instead of guessing. The following has suprised me : I spent about 18m more travelling that I claim for, I usually claim 18m for rep at court - it feels like that - but it's actually between 6 - 18m depending on which judge is sitting. Waiting time has been inaccurate as I don't claim enough - I don't like to sit and clock watch as it makes clients even more nervous.
However I cannot assess if the time I spend on prep is acurate as I have no one else to compare notes with.
I usually claim 18m to prepare a statement on behalf of client - I'm sure its more but often when preparing the statement I am interuppted by general hubub of the office so I end up doing about 3 different things at once without accurately timing them. So rather than claiming too much time it seems that I'm not claiming enough - so the average case times is probably more .
1)when travelling to court you are usually thinking about the hearing so why not claim it as general preperation ( as long as you make a file note when, say, waiting when it no longer will be waiting) but you cannot double claim for the same time. 2)sometimes you might have to consider giving a full letter to your client to hand to the Judge. i recall the regs say you cannot always justify attending.
A few questions:
3) anyone know when the unified contact regs will be published . i thought was due sept 06.
4) on same topic, as housing has two fixed fee levels, where homelessness includes repossesssion, when is the higher level triggered or is it new matter start . IE NOSP/NTQ? CLAIM FORM? S184 LETTER? REVIEW? May result in being in sol firms interest to tell potential client to come back when situation passes that trigger to get better fee and so increase costs/ court cases etc.
The point about giving a letter to the client instead of attending the hearing- I only go to court if we can't reach an agreement with the lender/landlord or if there is any doubt about the chances of a succesful outcome.
I always fax a statement to the court before the hearing as this gives the judge a chance to have full details before the hearing - I think this actually reduces the time in court.
I also fax the statement to the "other"side and again this gives the bigger picture of how the client got into the situation.
I always jusify why I've attended court cos I know what auditors are like - I was initially told by the auditor that I wasn't allowed to attend court so I searched the contract for hours until I found something outlining the times it would be justified to attend.
An obvious thought though that the LSC don;t seem to understand - when someone is faced with losing their home it's always justified to attend court - you wouldn't be doing your job properly otherwise.
Another thought as well - the same auditor who told me I shouldn't be attending court ,moved to another job within LSC and approached us to provide a duty possession scheme at the local court. Apparently LSC had been told that people who had assisstance at court were less likely to lose their home!
Sadly sometimes letters best your can do when no other housing lawyers to refer to and client saw you at the last minute and you cannot attend ( many reasons such as just your work load) and no sol scheme. Also there are misconceived defences lodged by clients and you advice them to withdraw it (eg successon rights) so the letter would be a request for more time b4 the bailiffs arrive.