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Enhanced telephone support for financial assessment
Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016
This update provides information about reduced rejection rates following the introduction of enhanced telephone support for applicants for civil legal aid who do not receive a passporting benefit and have to complete a Financial Form 2.
It is a statutory requirement that we assess the financial eligibility of applicants for civil legal aid.
However, we know that the financial assessment process can be frustrating and time-consuming, both for applicants for legal aid and for SLAB’s assessment staff.
Completion of financial forms and provision of supporting documents has for some time been the most common reason for delay in decisions being made about applications and so we have been examining steps we can take to address this.
Through our engagement process, SLAB has identified opportunities to streamline, simplify and modernise the legal aid system. The streamlining programme is aimed at delivering further changes which will manage risks to the legal aid fund with reduced bureaucracy and benefits for solicitors, applicants and SLAB.
We are currently considering a number of options relating to the submission of financial information, including online submission facilities for applicants and a review of the nature and extent of the supporting documents which we require. We will report on further on these in due course.
Enhanced support leads to reduced Form 2 rejection rates
One area we’ve looked at is applications for civil legal aid by those who do not receive a passporting benefit and have to complete a Financial Form 2.
Previously when we received a Form 2 where there were questions on the form that had not been answered or where supporting documents, such as bank statements or payslips had not been supplied, we automatically rejected the application. A letter was sent to the solicitor and the applicant explaining what needed to be remedied.
Consistently over the long-term more than 80% of applications have had to be rejected when first received and very many have had to be rejected on multiple occasions.
Since the beginning of October we have instead started to telephone such applicants in the majority of cases to see if they can provide the missing answers to the questions over the telephone and, if applicable, to explain to them which documents they need to send us or, if necessary, to discuss and explain acceptable alternatives.
If the applicant confirms that they will send in the missing documents we will hold the case for around 24-48 hours to allow them time to get this information to us without rejecting the application and issuing rejection letters.
If we do not receive this information by the end of this period we will then reject the application and send a letter telling the applicant what information it is we need them to send in order that we can progress their application.
Early indications are very encouraging and are showing that the rejection level for incomplete Form 2s has dropped from 80% to around 50% since we introduced this change.
Your help to further improve the application process
We would ideally like to see this come down even further and would like your help in assisting us. We are finding that some applicants are sending the missing bank statements or payslips to their solicitor to upload to their case instead of sending these directly to us.
If your client does this it would be helpful, and would speed up the process, if you could send this on to us straight away.
Your clients can send us information by email or by post or hand it into our office if they live locally. Copies are usually acceptable. In most cases we do not need to see original documents.
We hope that this more direct and hands on approach will assist applicants with what can often be seen as a difficult and complex process.
We would also ask you to encourage your clients to telephone us if they are unsure about anything in relation to completion of the form or the actual assessment process.
They should call 0845 123 2330.
If you have any queries about this update contact:
Cindy Morrice, Civil Finance Manager by telephone on 0131 240 2199 or by e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more information about Streamlining here.
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