End of specialist support?

YLAL has responded to the Legal Services Commission (LSC) consultation on the future of the Specialist Support Service. The LSC aims to end the service after the current contracts run out at the end of June 2012.

YLAL responded arguing for the retention of the service. The service is arguably cost-efficient for public funds and it helps to ensure that individuals receive holistic and quality advice on their legal problems. We also feel it is important that the service should continue at this particular time, given the uncertainty surrounding providers’ continued existence and their ability to advise clients post-implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

Download our response at the bottom of this page.

Thank you to all our members who contributed to our response.

For information about the background to this consultation read our original post below:

The telephone and email service provides second-tier support to first-tier advice organisations. The areas of law covered are welfare benefits, debt, housing, employment, community care, immigration, mental health and public law. According to statistics set out in the LSC consultation paper, the service cost around £4.4m over the last three years and is forecast to cost £1.1m this year.

The LSC argues that these services are no longer needed as contract providers should already meet stringent quality controls and supervision requirements. They also argue that it is not appropriate under the legal aid scheme to fund specialist advice for organisations that do not hold LSC contracts. A third argument made by the LSC is that when advisers diagnose an overlapping issue they should refer the client onto a specialist contract holder for direct advice.

Initial responses from our members suggest that the specialist support service is a very welcome and really useful resource. Having a supervisor in-house was seen as not always a substitute; a supervisor may only have a few years experience in that area whereas the specialist support service frequently used dedicated professionals with many years’ experience.
The deadline to respond to the LSC’s consultation is 11 May.  YLAL believes that it is an important service and we will be responding. If you would like to help with this or would like to share your experiences of using the specialist support service please email us at ylalinfo@gmail.com

Contact details for each of the specialist support providers are below. All are open Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm:

  • Community Care – Public Law Solicitors, 0845 140 5006
  • Debt – Citizens Advice, 0808 808 2575
  • Employment – Citizens Advice, 0808 808 3681
  • Housing – Shelter, 0844 515 2113 (England), Shelter Cymru 0845 602 3449 (Wales)
  • Immigration – Wilson Solicitors, 0845 677 2205
  • Mental Health – Scott Moncrieff, 0844 800 3364
  • Public Law – The Public Law Project, 0808 808 4546
  • Welfare Benefits – Child Poverty Action Group, 0845 612 8007 (England), London Advice Services Alliance, 0845 271 3230 (Wales)