YLAL remind people that you have until 11 May to respond to the consultation on the removal of Specialist Support
"Publication date: April 2012.The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has launched a consultation on the future of the Specialist Support Service with the aim to end the service after the current contracts run out at the end of June 2012.
The telephone and email service provides second-tier support to first-tier advice organisations. The areas of law covered are welfare benefits, debt, housing, employment, community care, immigration, mental health and public law. According to statistics set out in the LSC consultation paper, the service cost around £4.4m over the last three years and is forecast to cost £1.1m this year.
The LSC argues that these services are no longer needed as contract providers should already meet stringent quality controls and supervision requirements. They also argue that it is not appropriate under the legal aid scheme to fund specialist advice for organisations that do not hold LSC contracts. A third argument made by the LSC is that when advisers diagnose an overlapping issue they should refer the client onto a specialist contract holder for direct advice.
Initial responses from our members suggest that the specialist support service is a very welcome and really useful resource. Having a supervisor in-house was seen as not always a substitute; a supervisor may only have a few years experience in that area whereas the specialist support service frequently used dedicated professionals with many years' experience.
The deadline to respond to the LSC’s consultation is 11 May. YLAL believes that it is an important service and we will be responding. If you would like to help with this or would like to share your experiences of using the specialist support service please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact details for each of the specialist support providers are below. All are open Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm:
•Community Care – Public Law Solicitors, 0845 140 5006 •Debt – Citizens Advice, 0808 808 2575 •Employment – Citizens Advice, 0808 808 3681 •Housing – Shelter, 0844 515 2113 (England), Shelter Cymru 0845 602 3449 (Wales) •Immigration – Wilson Solicitors, 0845 677 2205 •Mental Health – Scott Moncrieff, 0844 800 3364 •Public Law – The Public Law Project, 0808 808 4546 •Welfare Benefits - Child Poverty Action Group, 0845 612 8007 (England), London Advice Services Alliance, 0845 271 3230 (Wales)"
Post by Colin Henderson on Jun 11, 2012 20:41:01 GMT
And, having gone through the motions, the consultation response confirms Specialist Support is ending in 4 weeks:
"Having considered the responses, and in light of the current legal aid landscape, the impacts of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPOA) and our priorities and resources we have decided to proceed with the proposal to discontinue the Specialist Support Service.
Having been extended for 3 months on 31 March 2012, the current contracts are due to expire on 30 June 2012. We now propose, subject to the agreement of the current contract holders, to extend the current contracts until Friday 6 July 2012 to enable a managed withdrawal of the Specialist Support Service
We have analysed the equality impacts of our proposal on legal aid clients and providers in the light of the available data and reviewed and enhanced that analysis in the light of the consultation. We believe that the withdrawal of the SSS is neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory and that it is consistent with our duties under the Equality Act 2010."