Message from Matthew Coats ? chief executive of the Legal Services Commission
I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and take this opportunity to outline our priorities and key milestones for 2013.
This is also a chance to explain how we would like to work with you over the next few months of significant change in the legal aid system.
Working with legal aid practitioners, the judiciary and other key players in the justice system will underpin all our activities over the next 12 months.
Firstly, we will concentrate on further improving our operational performance in casework and in the stewardship of public funds.
Our fundamental role is to effectively administer legal aid and casework constitutes a critical and substantial part of this role.
We want to continue to maintain our processing standards and look to make further improvements.
Secondly, we will focus on developing our organisation in the lead up to April to ensure that we operate as an effective agency of the Ministry of Justice once the LSC ceases to exist.
Thirdly, we will work more effectively with others. An important part of this work is to continue to strengthen our relationship with you.
We are working in partnership with your representative bodies to identify improvements to our processes. Making changes to these processes will remain a priority in 2013.
We will also continue to play an important part in supporting the wider justice system e.g. initiatives such as the criminal justice system efficiency programme.
This programme is modernising and reforming the system into a simpler, swifter and more transparent service which meets the needs of victims and the public.
In the first few months of 2013 we will be communicating with you and your representative bodies about a number of key milestones and activities.
? January ? organisations that tendered for civil contracts will receive a notification on their contract awards (story published on 4 January 2013 ? see ?further information? below).
? March/April ? the LSC will run provider training on delivering the civil legal aid reforms. Training and resources will also be available through a dedicated online hub which can be accessed by anyone in your organisation.
? February/March ? we will hold Bar Reference Groups with the Bar Council in the circuits following the success of a pilot meeting held in London last year.
? April ? this is a major step for all of us at the LSC as we become the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). We will also see phase two of the legal aid reforms that we have all been working on come into force.
We continue to develop our approach to provider engagement and will incorporate what we have heard at the recent Provider Reference Groups which many of you attended.
In summary, our approach is to:
? work collaboratively with your representative bodies to jointly solve issues and develop guidance and training for the legal aid profession.
? make improvements to the training we offer providers, particularly in relation to the design of online training and local courses for your administrative staff.
? use our contract managers to ensure effective compliance with contractual requirements.
? improve the way we work so that we offer better customer service.
We always welcome your views and ideas on ways to improve our business and relationships with you. We are continuing to meet regularly with your representative bodies to discuss common interests and concerns.
So please continue to feed your ideas to us either through your representative bodies or directly through your contract manager.
Justice website: civil contracts from 1 April 2013