Firms can apply for the 2019/20 Children’s Duty Scheme in one of two ways:
You must also meet the eligibility criteria for the duty scheme.
The duty plans usually run for a 12 month period. Allocations across the various plans depend on the number of eligible, registered solicitors who apply and meet the necessary criteria for the scheme. In the event of over subscription for any one area allocations may be made on a “first come, first served” basis.
The plan for each geographic area (by hearing centre area) runs from Monday to Sunday. Each qualifying firm will be allocated, so far as possible, an equal share of the available cover with the actual allocation depending on the number of firms registered in that area and availability to undertake the responsibilities.
Plans will be allocated in blocks of one week unless otherwise necessitated by local circumstances. All plans are published on our website and distributed to relevant Reporters by local authority area.
It should be noted for duty plan purposes that supplementary locations out with the main centre location can be used from time to time. All supplementary locations will be broadly within the same geographic area as the main hearing centre.
We can only be accept applications from firms and sole practitioners. Each application must specify by name the solicitor(s) who will fulfil the firm’s duty plan obligations.
All solicitors named by the firm to provide cover must be PVG registered and have us as a registered body on their record. They must also hold a practicing certificate with no restriction in relation to legal aid, as at the closing date for applications, affecting their entitlement to provide children’s legal assistance. In addition all solicitors to be included on the duty plan must be accepted and registered on the Children’s Legal Assistance Register.
At the time of applying for inclusion your firm should either have a place of business within the hearing centre area or conduct the majority of their business within that area. This requirement can be disregarded where necessitated by local circumstances. Any such decision will be taken by us and consider the available resources and the circumstances applying to the area.
Your firm can be included on plans for more than one hearing centre area provided the travel time from the firm to each centre is reasonable. As an example a branch based in Ayr could apply to be included on the plans for both Ayr and Stranraer but it would not be permissible for that same firm to apply to be on the plan for Aberdeen.
Applications for inclusion on the plans received after the closing date will be accepted on a “back-up” basis only.
As duty solicitor you must:
Depending on the particular circumstances in any case either us or the Reporter will contact the duty firm to give details of the case. Your obligation is to accept responsibility for acting in such cases.
You must notify us immediately if your firm as a whole cannot fulfil its obligations in terms of the plan. It is your firm’s responsibility to fulfil all duty plan obligations and to ensure that representation is provided where required.
If you fail to fulfil any duties under the duty scheme without making provision for another solicitor to attend, you may be considered unsuitable for inclusion in future duty plans.
In addition, we may consider removing you from the Children’s Legal Assistance Register. Any other firm that, in these circumstances, is required to substitute for the duty plan firm is deemed to be acting as duty solicitor for the purposes of the plan.
Claims for payment for automatic legal aid work carried out under the duty scheme are submitted on a time and line (detailed) basis in accordance with payments made in advice and assistance and ABWOR.
You must give a minimum of one month’s notice to us if you wish to withdraw from the plan for any reason and you must undertake the duties you have previously agreed to carry out.
If you move to another firm either in the existing hearing centre area or in another area you may participate in their new firm’s duty scheme obligations. To do this you must submit the appropriate application forms to us.
You should notify us if your firm ceases to exist to allow the relevant area plan to be updated and re-issued.
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