Post-consultation policy change to prior approval for unusual work will bring benefits for solicitors and applicants

We have made changes to our policy that removes the need for prior approval to be sought in certain circumstances for unusual work in family and Adults with Incapacity cases.

The change follows a consultation process last year and will mean benefits for solicitors, assisted persons (AP), and others associated with the case.

These include in supervised contact settings as it may mean contact can take place more quickly, which may be beneficial for both the AP and children.

What’s changing?

Family Actions

Where a grant of legal aid is in place that includes a relevant crave, which relates directly to the proposed work, it will no longer be necessary to obtain our prior approval for:

  1. A block of supervised contact sessions where the applicant’s share of the cost for the block of sessions does not exceed £3,000.
  2. A block of family mediation sessions, based on a maximum rate of £52.60 per hour, where the applicant’s share of the cost does not exceed £3,000.

Approval for unusually large expenditure is needed if the applicant’s share of the cost for the block of sessions exceeds £3,000.

Prior approval for unusual work continues to be needed if legal aid is not yet in place, or if the court has ordered you to meet the costs of another party.

Please note we cannot meet any costs incurred once the case has concluded.

Applications for guardianship under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000

Where a grant of legal aid is in place to apply for a guardianship order, it is no longer necessary to seek our approval to incur the cost of any premium relating to a required Bond of Caution required to allow the assisted person to complete the guardianship application process, unless the cost exceeds £3,000.

If the cost exceeds £3,000, approval for unusually large expenditure is needed.

Please note that we have no power to approve unusually large expenditure retrospectively, so it is essential that if we need to approve the work, the application for prior approval is made and granted by us before the work starts.

Tool to help know when need prior approval

We have a tool on our legal aid guidance section ‘Work of an unusual nature’ that helps you find out whether you need our prior approval for unusual work in some of the most common examples which arise.

This guidance only applies to situations where a grant of legal aid is in place, which includes a crave which is relevant to the work you want to undertake.

All costs will need to be justified at the accounts stage in the usual way, to show that the work carried out was reasonable, necessary, and carried out with due regard to economy.

Updated legal aid guidance

As a result of the changes we have updated the following guidance for solicitors:

Our revised policy and decision-making guidance

We’ve published policies and decision-makers’ guidance (DMG) for prior approval for unusual work in civil legal aid as part of our GALA project.

The policies and guidance on our GALA website are intended primarily for our decision-makers to:

  • assess the factors we consider in applications and accounts
  • detail the information we consider and the decisions we take because of that information.

Through the GALA project, our existing legal aid guidance for solicitors on our website is reviewed and updated, as appropriate.

This remains the primary legal aid reference material for solicitors and has links to published policy statements or decision-makers’ guidance.

The new policy statements and DMG are available on the GALA website for the following:

Further information

Please contact Wendy Dalgleish, Head of Civil and Children’s Legal Assistance
T: 0131 240 1894

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