Wednesday 03 April 2013 by Catherine Baksi
The chief executive of the new Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has promised practitioners that they will experience 'minimal' impact from the change in machinery.
In a statement following the Legal Services Commission's transition to the LAA, which was completed on 1 April, Matthew Coats pledged to work in partnership with providers as they face the challenges of price-competitive tendering and digital working.
He reassured legal aid lawyers that they will experience 'minimal' impact from the transition. 'My view is that you won't experience much of a difference,' he said.
Coats (pictured) added: 'Obviously, there are some practicalities to be aware of, such as the branding, forms to use, changes to email addresses and what will appear on your statements.'
He pledged that the LAA would seek to work in partnership with providers to achieve the organisation's purpose of delivering legal aid 'efficiently and effectively' as it processes more than 2.5 million legal aid applications and claims each year.
He said: 'We have been working against a challenging backdrop of significant and fast-moving changes in the legal aid market, the implementation of the legal aid reforms, and the need to make further efficiencies.
'Despite these challenges though, I think it is important that we continue to build on the collaborative working that we have all done in recent years to tackle change through partnership working,' he said.
Coats highlighted the pilot of the civil online payment and processing system in the north-east as an example of good collaboration.
'The involvement of providers and chambers in testing the system will be instrumental to its ultimate success when we roll it out, which we aim to do by the end of 2013,' he said.
Coats said that the LSC had improved 'a lot' and had reached its payment and processing performance targets for the past 12 months.
But he added: 'We want to see further improvements to our turnaround times,' and in particular a reduction in the number of applications rejected due to missing information or eligibility issues.
Looking ahead, he pledged to 'continue to engage and work' with providers as the government seeks to implement price-competitive tendering and digital working.