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Guidance on legal aid online mandates
Thursday, Mar 03, 2016
This update informs you about the requirement for Legal Aid Online mandates - what to do with them; how they fit into the legal aid process and the consequences for quality assurance.
What to do with mandates
Legal Aid Online allows you to send an application to us electronically. However, for the application to be complete you must obtain and keep on your client’s file, a completed and signed (by both the applicant and solicitor) legal aid online mandate. This reflects our current guidance and previous update issued about this topic.
How mandates fit into the legal aid process
Keeping a completed and signed mandate is a compulsory part of the legal aid application process for all aid types; it is not optional.
For advice and assistance/ABWOR, if the mandate is incomplete and/or is not signed by the applicant and solicitor, then there is no grant of advice and assistance. Mandates are used to provide contemporaneous evidence of the grant of advice and assistance/ABWOR. The grant is made by you when you sign the online mandate. When you send us the application through Legal Aid Online, you are registering the grant you have already made by signing the mandate.
For civil/criminal/children’s legal aid, the mandate is a key part of the process and is evidence of the applicant’s confirmation that an application is being made.
The mandate is an important document for the applicant. They sign important declarations including:
- the information provided is correct
- that they understand and consent to the application being made
- that they consent to information being requested from third parties (for example, banks, employers and HMRC)
- that they consent to the file being used for Quality Assurance purposes.
The consequences for Quality Assurance
From our own sample checking and feedback from the Civil and Criminal Quality Assurance processes, we know that it is not uncommon for blank, partially completed and unsigned mandates to be in solicitors’ files or no mandate at all. Through our checking processes, where we find this to be the case, you may not be paid for the work.
For the purposes of Quality Assurance, individual files will fail the quality assurance criteria if there is:
- a blank, signed mandate
- a completed, unsigned mandate – by both applicant and solicitor.
Where the mandate is present, is signed by the applicant and solicitor, but it is incomplete, the peer reviewer will use their discretion. The material pieces of information for advice and assistance and legal aid are whether your client is identified, the subject matter is identified and the advice and assistance form shows sufficient information to assess eligibility and the assessment has been properly made and recorded.
The peer reviewer will use their discretion in assessing whether the mandate is sufficiently complete for a proper assessment and advice and assistance grant to have been made. If there is not, the peer reviewer may decide that the individual criterion has failed for that file. If the mandate is so incomplete as to have no real connection between the applicant’s signature and the information contained, then the peer reviewer may decide to fail the file.
When your firm is selected for peer review, you should ensure that the legal aid mandates are present on the files. Where there is no mandate present, the peer reviewer will use their discretion, and may fail the individual criterion but not the file where there is an isolated incident. However, where it appears that the solicitor has no mandates, then the solicitor may fail the review.
Updating the current mandates
We will be publishing new and improved versions of the mandates in June 2016. We’ll update you on the changes prior to them being issued.
If you have any queries about this update or about use of the mandates please contact:
Civil & Children’s Legal Assistance – Mrs A Forbes-Partington Assistant Manager, direct dial: 0131 240 2072, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Criminal Legal Assistance: Mrs A Craig, Criminal Applications Team Leader, direct dial: 0131 240 2098 or by email: email@example.com
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