Family Legal Aid Reform: Government Response to the Committee's Eighth Report of Session 2008-09 - Justice Committee Contents

Appendix: Government response

I am writing in response to the Committee's report on Family Legal Aid Reform (Eighth Report of Session 2008-09) published on Wednesday 15 July 2009.

You will recall in my initial response to the Committee […] that I expected to announce the way ahead following our consultation on family legal aid reform ("Family legal aid funding from 2010"), before recess. On 20 July, I tabled a Written Ministerial Statement (Official Report, Column WS156) which effectively announced that I had decided to delay publication of final proposals to allow for further work on the modelling of the schemes to be undertaken by my officials over the summer.

Whilst I do feel that it is right, in principle, to proceed with a harmonised family advocacy scheme, it is equally important to ensure that those models, and the assumptions that underpin them are as accurate as possible. As you are aware, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) continued to work closely with the profession on the detail of the proposed family advocacy scheme long after the consultation closed in April this year. I believe that a good deal of progress has been made in recognising and rewarding complexity in the revised scheme because of this.

The greater graduation now reflected in the revised proposals required extensive remodelling of the schemes by the LSC. For this reason, and in order to take proper account of the points raised in the Committee's report, I decided that further analysis was required. This way we can ensure, as far as possible, that the modelling is sufficiently robust and will give us a clear picture of how we can achieve harmonisation on a cost neutral basis and still retain quality family law services for children and other vulnerable clients.

The analysis work is still ongoing and once I am satisfied with the results, I intend to announce my decision on the final shape of the scheme. I do not intend to undertake any further consultation before doing so, as I feel we have allowed extensive opportunity for comments on and contribution to the emerging structure of the scheme. I am grateful to the Committee for its contribution to this process. As I have already indicated, I believe that the final proposals will reflect many of the concerns raised about these proposed reforms.

Once the analysis work is completed, I will make a final decision on the way ahead, which will be made public as soon as possible, through formal announcement. I will then write to the Committee again, offering a fuller response to its report on Family Legal Aid Reform.

Lord Bach

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

Ministry of Justice

14 September 2009

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