A Ministry of Justice review of legal aid policy settings has not resulted in Budget funding, so there will be no substantive changes to legal aid policy settings this year, the Ministry of Justice says.
Legal Aid Services Manager Tracey Baguley says the review of legal aid policy settings in the 2018/19 financial year say the ministry meeting with many legal aid providers.
Some of the key themes highlighted in their feedback, she says, included provider remuneration, eligibility thresholds for civil/family legal aid and the administrative burden on providers of legal aid processes.
"We did not receive Budget funding, which was required to implement changes arising from the review. This means there will be no substantive changes made to legal aid policy settings this year following the outcome of the legal aid review," Ms Baguley says.
She says the ministry understands that many providers will be disappointed in the result and it is not what they may have been expecting.
"Legal aid reviews are scheduled for regular intervals and there will be an opportunity to examine legal aid policy settings in the future. In the interim, the ministry has completed work, and is looking at further ways of reducing the administrative burden of legal aid and improving the provider experience.
"During 2018 we were able to increase the remuneration rates for the Police Detention Legal Assistance service. We have also worked to reduce and simplify the legal aid application forms and the amendment to grant forms. We reviewed the policies around complex criminal cases and travel. We are currently looking at ways to simplify the invoice forms."
Ms Baguley says the ministry has begun reviewing its provider application, approval, contracting and quality assurance processes. She says the intent of this work is to ensure that any improvements made will streamline, integrate and align with the rest of the legal aid system so that transactions are seamless, not administratively burdensome, "purposeful to business operations" and contribute to a successful working relationship with providers.
"As this is a large piece of work, the Ministry will undertake two phases of work. The first phase will focus on a review of our provider application, approval and contracting processes and the second phase, will focus on quality assurance processes. The ministry will work with [providers] and other key stakeholders to take a co-design approach to our improvement activity."