Costs News

07 January 2016
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CCMS delayed by two months – but problems persist

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has delayed the mandatory use of its controversial Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) by two months to 1 April 2016 but it continues to ignore serious problems with its billing functionality, according to the ACL.

The only exception to the delay is for Special Children Act cases, for which all providers must use CCMS from 1 February.

In an announcement made shortly before Christmas, the LAA said: “Adopting this approach to mandatory use of CCMS will allow us to provide more time to CCMS users, who process cases other than SCA cases, to become familiar with planned enhancements before the 1 April 2016.

“A number of key enhancements are due to be released in the next month. We want all CCMS users to have the chance to get used to the changes for all civil work. We have developed this approach after considering feedback from both CCMS users and your representative bodies. There will be no change to this revised date.”

The LAA said that it nonetheless expected firms “to continue increasing use of the system across all case types”, with 65% of all new civil applications being “successfully” submitted via CCMS.

Paul Seddon, chair of the ACL’s Legal Aid Group, said: “While we welcome a delay to mandatory use, for billing it only continues to be a stay of execution. In all this time, our concerns around CCMS’s billing functionality have still not been addressed and we fear they will not be.

“Only one minor issue of the 23 issues detailed in our report [last year] has been resolved completely, despite being listed in priority order. The LAA has made no commitment to resolve serious items at the top of the list, like problems with usability and performance that will make submitting a bill on CCMS both error-prone and uneconomical.

“The set of planned enhancements announced by the LAA in June 2015 include only two that relate to billing: changing a default value from ‘Yes’ to ‘No’ for Family Advocacy Scheme ‘bolt-on’ payments and improving the PDF version of the online bill.

“Despite running years late, with budgets being revised upwards and further delays to the rollout of the system, the LAA still only seems to be fixing minor billing issues, not the significant ones of which it has been repeatedly advised. This leads us to conclude that either the LAA is not able to do so through lack of resources or that it fails to recognise the severity of the issues we have raised.”

Elspeth Thomson, co-chair of Resolution's legal aid committee, said: “Many of our members are still reporting significant problems with CCMS, but we have heard from those working in public children law that the system has been improved for this type of application, after significant lobbying from Resolution, the Association of Lawyers for Children and many others.

“We're pleased that the LAA has taken the sensible decision to only make public children law applications mandatory from February. Delaying the mandatory start date for the rest of the legal aid applications will hopefully give the LAA time to rectify the serious issues that still remain in the system.”

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