The Legal Aid Agency’s (LAA) new digital application system has been criticised by family lawyers as a “national scandal”.
Speaking at family law organisation Resolution’s national conference in Brighton, chair Jo Edwards said that the new Client Cost and Management System (CCMS) has been “beset with problems since its introduction”.
She cited such problems as the fact that “users can’t keep a record of what they’ve submitted” and that the system “is so slow that it can take three times as long as the paper process”.
The CCMS will become a compulsory part of the legal aid application process starting in October. Ms Edwards predicted “untold difficulties” if improvements were not made before then.
While Resolution has tried to work with the Legal Aid Agency, she claimed that “increasingly, we feel we’re banging our head against a wall” as the CCMS is set to be rolled out nationally “despite the very many difficulties we have long been flagging”.
The LAA should “listen to what practitioners are saying, and act on it now, for your own sake as much as anyone else’s”, she warned.
Ms Edwards said that there are a “huge number of vulnerable people now deprived of access to justice” following the extensive cuts to legal aid in April 2013. She claimed it was “nothing short of a national scandal” that the LAA had spent more than £35 million on the CCMS when some of that money could do more good funding initial legal advice.
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