Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Resolution urges LAA to delay compulsory CCMS use

Resolution has this week written to the Legal Aid Agency, urging them to delay the compulsory use of the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS), which is due to take place from 1st April.

This letter comes in the light of the results of a survey run by Resolution of legal aid practitioners, which nearly 600 CCMS users completed. The survey was promoted by a range of other organisations who share a common interest in making sure CCMS works for everyone.

This revealed that, despite improvements to the system since it was first introduced, significant issues still remain which make CCMS unfit for purpose.

The survey found that an overwhelming majority of practitioners – 82% - did not believe CCMS would be ready for compulsory use from 1st April. This included users making Special Children Act applications, for whom CCMS use is already compulsory.

Resolution has been working closely with other representative bodies to persuade the LAA to make the improvements it has already made, and to delay the compulsory use of CCMS which was originally scheduled for February.

However, Resolution’s members believe time is running out, and the LAA need to make the sensible decision to delay compulsory use of CCMS until the many ongoing problems are resolved and they’ve made the improvements that are desperately needed.

Commenting on the letter and the survey, Elspeth Thomson, who co-chairs Resolution’s Legal Aid Committee, said:

"The Legal Aid Agency needs to see sense and delay the compulsory use of a system which is clearly not fit for purpose.

"We have had an overwhelming response from legal aid lawyers on the ground, who are working with some of the most vulnerable members of society to help them get access to justice. They are telling us that CCMS is not working as it should or, on some days, working at all.

"When the government announced last month that 86 courts were to close across England and Wales, we were told that savings would be used to modernise remaining courts, including greater use of technology. On the evidence of CCMS, together with the Form E fiasco late last year, practitioners are not exactly brimming with confidence about this prospect.

"Our call for a delay is not driven out of a dogmatic opposition to new systems – in fact, 71% of respondents said they welcome the concept of electronic working, and there are acknowledgements that improvements have been made since CCMS was first introduced.

"But anyone looking at the true picture across the country can see that this is yet another failing government IT project that risks further restricting access to justice for those dwindling numbers still eligible for legal aid.”

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