Still on the subject of public law proceedings, it is obviously essential that parents facing the possibility that the state may remove their children from them should be properly advised and, if necessary, represented. It is therefore with considerable dismay that I hear more and more complaints about failures by the LSC to properly and promptly remunerate lawyers doing child care work.
The latest such complaint is in a letter from William Bache of William Bache & Co, published in the Gazette today. He refers to the recent closure of West Midlands legal aid firm Jewels, and agrees with Mark Jewels that that "melancholy event" was most likely caused by late payments by the LSC.
He goes on to say that his own firm's experience with the LSC has been similar, and that many other legal aid lawyers have told him that they have not received payments from the LSC for months. In fact, he believes "that some secret direction has been issued by the government to the LSC to reduce by any means possible the sums to be paid to the dedicated and hardworking (not to say long-suffering) practitioners", including:
"...reductions in amounts once allowed; rejections of major claims for the most miniscule of reasons; and disallowance of items that their declared policy says are allowable."He says that "many would describe such tactics as sharp practice", compounding "the pre-existing scandal of lamentable rates of remuneration and the creaking administration of payments", and fears that if this situation continues:
"...more excellent firms will fail, leaving a vulnerable section of our community without the expertise they desperately need to deal with the visceral issues connected with the potential loss of their children."It is not, of course, just that firms will fail - many others will simply choose to stop doing this vital work. What then for the likes of Tiffany and Mike?
And for any lay person thinking that this is just another example of the bleating of fat-cat lawyers, think again. Most child care lawyers are doing this very difficult and complex work for the sort of limited rewards any self-respecting fat cat would consider loose change, and at the very margin of profit.
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UPDATE: Please read the first comment to this post, which seems to sum this issue up nicely.