Project to review and improve Legal Assistance Handbooks

Monday, Jan 30, 2017

This update explains about:

  • work beginning on a project to look at SLAB’s legal assistance handbooks
  • the handbooks moving platform

A project to improve the legal assistance handbooks has been set up as part of the broader push towards modernising and simplifying the legal aid system under the Streamlining programme.

The handbooks are intended as a key source of information and guidance, both for members of the legal profession who seek payment via legal aid and for SLAB staff.

Previous consultation and discussions with the profession have raised issues with the handbooks.

These include the effectiveness of the search function, how the handbooks are laid out and their accessibility when using mobile devices.

The handbooks project will look at the different kinds of information currently contained in the handbooks and consider how best it could be made available to different audiences trying to achieve a variety of different ends.

Input from the profession: baseline research

As part of this, we will shortly be seeking input from users to help us understand the ways in which guidance is used through the life of legal assistance case, and the kinds of information potential users look for when consulting SLAB’s guidance.

We are currently in the process of commissioning research on this topic: once a research team has been appointed, they will be contacting a sample of firms in order to arrange in-depth interviews on these issues.

We’ll post an update on our website shortly giving details of the research team.

We expect the research team to be making contact with potential participants around mid-February.

The findings from this research will form a basis for us to take forward other workstreams aimed at making improvements to the handbooks.  

Anticipated benefits

We hope the handbook project will have a range of benefits for the profession, SLAB staff and, ultimately, for applicants.

A more accessible resource will help solicitors find and submit the required information at the first attempt. This should allow us to make decisions earlier and reduce the time taken processing applications.

The handbooks project is expected to be a long-term initiative, with work on a variety of work streams taking place over the course of 2017.

We will provide further updates as the project progresses.

Handbooks moving platform

Following on-going problems with the software used for the handbooks we are moving them directly onto the website. WebworksHandbook

This is only intended as an interim step while the handbooks project carries out its review but it will provide a more flexible platform.

It should also eliminate problems experienced on the existing software, such as hyperlinks not working.

The Criminal and Civil handbooks will be available on the website from 6 February. The Children’s and Legislation handbooks will move shortly.

Access to the handbooks is still through the Legal Assistance Handbooks section of the website.OpenCMSHandbook

The handbooks on the website will have a feedback/comment option that will allow you to quickly let us know of any issues you’re having with them.

For further information, please contact:

Kieran Forbes

Policy and development


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