I fully appreciate that the profession will be very worried not only about their own health and that of their colleagues, staff and clients, but also about their cashflow.
SLAB values the work that you do and we have already put in place measures to support you providing advice and representation, including adjustments to the arrangements for obtaining client signatures, verification of income etc.
As a first priority we are also ensuring that we have the best arrangements possible to continue with the processing and payment of accounts already in the system and as they continue to come in.
You can help these efforts by making full use of online accounts and ensuring all correspondence is either via the online system or, where that is not possible, use the emails for relevant teams on our Contact Us page.
With a large proportion of staff working at home, we anticipate challenges in maintaining a full ability to manage incoming paper accounts and mail, as well as managing volumes of phone calls.
We are also giving very urgent but careful thought to the position when the flow of business is interrupted as a result of Covid-19, perhaps limiting solicitors’ ability either to conclude cases or timeously submit their accounts.
SLAB’s position is constrained by the terms of the Act and regulations, various public finance rules and requirements and the structure of the online accounts system. We are urgently exploring what room we have to vary our existing approach where that would be helpful and appropriate.
It is important to recognise that there is a limit as to what can be achieved within the legal aid system. In these extraordinary times, other forms of support may become available to firms as small businesses, either from government, local authorities or lenders.
We would urge firms to explore these avenues at the same time as we do what we can to assist.
These are complex issues and require careful management. SLAB is working as fast as we can to find appropriate solutions. We will communicate further news as soon as we can.
In the meantime, we would like to thank you for your forbearance as we implement necessary changes to our business processes in light of the impact of Covid-19 on our own staff and operations.