19/08/2019 - Applying to be a legal aid provider is now much easier for Queen’s Counsel (QCs), says Secretary for Justice Andrew Kibblewhite.
“We know that the process to become a legal aid provider is complex and difficult and we’re making changes to streamline this process,” says Mr Kibblewhite.
“We recognise the level of skill and dedication required to achieve QC status and we’re removing some of the hoops they need to jump through. I have decided that we will not require Queen’s Counsel to provide work samples or references if they are seeking approval to work in their usual area of practice."
The application forms can be found on the legal aid lawyers section of the Ministry's website.
This change is part of a wider project to improve the experience that lawyers have with the Ministry of Justice’s approval and contracting processes for legal aid services. Following feedback from the profession the first step has been to review the legal aid application requirements for QCs.
Due to the size of the project, and considering the effect on lawyers, the Ministry is undertaking two phases of work. The first phase will focus on provider application, approval and contracting processes.
Mr Kibblewhite recognises that the audits and complaints processes also need reviewing. In April 2020, the Ministry will begin the second phase of work. This phase will focus on quality assurance processes including the complaints and audit processes.
“There are many benefits to this project; we’ll make it easier for lawyers to become legal aid providers and in doing so we also hope to grow the pool of providers, making it much easier for people to find a legal aid lawyer,” says Mr Kibblewhite.
“We want to hear your thoughts on the changes we are making and this engagement will begin from October.”
The changes will affect lawyers in all courts and tribunals acting in proceedings for which legal aid may be granted under sections 6-8 and 10-12 of the Legal Services Act 2011. The changes will also affect anyone applying to provide specified legal services.
Earlier this year the Ministry completed several discovery interviews with providers who recently went through the application, approval and contracting processes. The intent of the interviews was to understand the current state and the difficulties people experienced when undertaking these processes. During the interviews the Ministry found most participants experienced similar difficulties, in particular that the processes are administratively burdensome, discouraging lawyers from applying to provide legal aid services.
From this the Ministry identified four focus areas to improve the approval and contracting processes.
There are currently 22 application forms for lawyers who want to become a legal aid provider. Each form relates to a specific area of law. The application forms are not easy to use, and the information collected needs to be reviewed. To address this, the Ministry aims to reduce the number of application forms and ask purposeful questions that are required for the assessment. These changes should decrease the time and effort required to make an application and avoid discouraging lawyers from wanting to apply to provide legal aid services.
A legal aid lawyer must reapply every 3-5 years to continue providing legal aid services in each area of law they are approved for. The intention of the reapproval process is to provide the Secretary for Justice with an opportunity to reassess an existing legal aid lawyer’s performance. In practice, this is not the appropriate stage to undertake that assessment, particularly as performance can be managed through processes like audits, which form a part of the overall quality assurance framework. The project aims to remove the requirement for a lawyer to continue reapplying for approval throughout their period of service.
Six regional Selection Committee panels provide recommendations to the Secretary for Justice on an applicant’s suitability to provide the legal aid service(s) applied for. The Legal Services Quality Assurance Regulations 2011 set out the approval requirements at a high-level. The project aims to develop operational guidance for both applicants and Selection Committee members to ensure consistent assessment of applications and quality standards are met. Scheduling of applications for assessment by the Selection Committee will also be improved.
When a lawyer is approved to provide legal aid services, they are given a contract which is valid for two years. After two years, a new contract is sent to approved legal aid lawyers. Contract renewals are not currently processed at the same time as a lawyer is re-approved to provide legal aid services. The project aims to remove the contract renewal process and combine the contract with the approval documentation when a lawyer first applies to provide legal aid services. This change will remove unnecessary administration for legal aid lawyers and the Ministry.
Consultation with the legal profession will begin in October 2019. Consultation will be conducted via the Ministry’s web-based platform, Consultation Hub. The Ministry encourages you to provide feedback during the consultation period to ensure the proposed solutions will deliver an improved experience. The Ministry will provide you with a further update regarding the consultation process in early October.
19/08/2019 - In circumstances where customers are unable to sign legal aid application forms because of security at court cells, Legal Aid will accept applications signed by a lawyer on behalf of the customer where an explanation is provided. We recommend the lawyer sign for the applicant and write their name, their relationship and an explanation in the space provided on the form.
Applications which are not signed by the customer, with no explanation provided, will be returned to the customer as per our usual process.
01/08/19 – We are updating our mileage rate to align with the IRD rate. The new rate is $0.79 per kilometre for all vehicles.
To allow the new rate to be claimed as soon as possible, it will apply to all legal aid invoices received from 5 August 2019. However to mitigate unnecessary administrative work, claims received after 5 August 2019 at the old rate can still be processed as claimed.
If you are using the Word template forms, after the new rate has been recorded once, it will remember that rate going forward.
25/07/2019 - Further to our article of 23 May 2019, the new version of the forms is now available from our website page for Legal aid lawyer Forms. The previous version of the forms will be accepted until 30 August 2019.
The improvements include:
The following forms have been removed from the Word package:
We will still be investigating the possibility of making the Word template package Mac compatible. An update will be provided once the assessment is complete.
As part of this release, we have also made changes to the amendment to grant forms to:
25/07/2019 - The Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015 came into effect on 18 November 2015. Matters under this Act may be a civil proceeding and require a civil legal aid application and a civil legal aid lawyer. If you are contacted by someone who is subject to this Act about a civil matter and you do not have a civil legal aid approval, you may apply for a limited civil approval. Providers with criminal PAL 2 approval or above will be considered for a streamlined limited approval to conduct these types of proceedings on a case-by-case basis. Lawyers should contact Legal Aid Provider Services in the first instance regarding any limited civil approval by emailing email@example.com.
The Act enables the Department of Corrections to manage and monitor certain offenders returning from overseas. The supervision regime applies to eligible offenders who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than one year in another country and determined by the Commissioner of Police to be returning prisoners.
Returning prisoners may require legal representation relating to:
An application to impose conditions and a review of a determination are civil proceedings. A civil legal aid application and a civil legal aid lawyer will be required.
If the returned prisoner nominates a legal aid lawyer who is not approved for civil legal aid, the lawyer may apply for a limited civil approval. Lawyers with criminal PAL 2 approval or above will be considered for a streamlined limited approval to conduct these types of proceedings on a case-by-case basis. Lawyers should contact Legal Aid Provider Services in the first instance regarding any limited civil approval by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A breach of a release condition under this Act is an offence that is subject, on conviction, to a maximum term of imprisonment of 1 year or a fine not exceeding $2,000. A criminal legal aid application is required and, if eligible, a criminal legal aid lawyer will be assigned on rotation.
25/07/2019 - In 2016 we set up a caller ID function to enable you to identify calls from Legal Aid Services.
When we call you, there are three possible numbers that could appear:
Please remember to save these numbers under one contact on your phone (e.g. Legal Aid - do not reply).
Do not call these numbers back as it will not connect to Legal Aid Services. To contact us, please continue to use the existing numbers included on our correspondence or call 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).
12/07/2019 - Previously, witness fees and costs were a pre-approved disbursement. The amounts payable were governed by the Witnesses and Interpreters Fees Regulations 1974.
We have conducted a review in this area and have revised legal aid policy. Witness costs will no longer be pre-approved from 22 July 2019 as there is no statutory requirement for them to be paid by legal aid. The pre-approved disbursement will not appear in grants schedules for applications received from that date. It will continue to appear in the grants schedules where the application was received before 22 July 2019 but will not be available to claim.
The invoice forms will be updated at the time of the next release of the WORD templates.
If you are submitting an amendment to grant to cover witness costs, please ensure it identifies the exceptional circumstances that require them to be paid by legal aid. Expert witness travel is not affected. It continues to require prior approval.
04/07/2019 - As you will be aware there have been changes to the family violence legislation with the introduction of the Family Violence Act 2018 from the 1st July 2019. This change means that correspondence in the future should refer to ‘Family Violence’ instead of ‘domestic violence’.
We are currently working with our ICT and vendors to make the necessary changes. In the meantime, the wording ‘domestic violence’ will be retained in the legal aid granting letters and invoice form 33 at this current time.
20/06/2019- The second phase of changes to family violence legislation takes effect on 1 July 2019.
Key changes in the Family Violence Act 2018 and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act are summarised below:
Standard conditions of Protection Orders change on 1 July and apply to people who already have a Protection Order.
One key change is that if a protected person agrees to contact with the respondent, they must give consent in writing by email, letter, text or other digital message.
Consent cannot override any special conditions restricting contact such as supervised contact for a child or other no-contact conditions. The protected person can withdraw consent at any time by any means.
From 1 July a beach of a Property Order will be treated as a breach of a Protection Order.
Types of abuse the person who's been violent must not do have been expanded to include:
The legislation expands the definition of family violence to include coercion or controlling behaviour and dowry-related abuse.
A flyer which covers these changes is attached below:
The definition of a child is amended to a person under the age of 18 to align with the Oranga Tamariki Act and the term ‘minor’ is removed from the legislation.
A young person aged 16 or over may apply for a Protection Order without a representative. Protection Orders may be issued against a young person aged between 16 and 18 years in special circumstances. This is intended for young couples in particular.
All children of an applicant will be covered by a Protection Order, including those born after an Order is granted. Children not living with the applicant can be included on request.
Judges can impose protective conditions for handover arrangements to keep children safe, whenever family violence has occurred, including psychological violence.
Judges can make a temporary Protection Order when considering applications under CoCA if they have concerns about the safety of a child or an adult.
Judges will be able to take more factors into account when considering the safety of a child under CoCA applications, including family violence offences.
Further information is available on the Ministry of Justice website page Family Violence.
Alternatively, you can refer to the Family Violence Act 2018(external link).
20/06/2019- The Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal was launched by Justice Minister Andrew Little on Monday 17 June 2019. Proceedings before the tribunal under the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Act 2019 are eligible for legal aid.
31/05/2019 - You may be aware that during financial year 2018/19 the Ministry undertook a review of legal aid policy settings. Now that Budget announcements have been made we can share the outcome of the review with you.
Many of you met with us during the review and we appreciate the time and effort you took to meet with us and the feedback you gave us. Some of the key themes highlighted in your feedback included provider remuneration, eligibility thresholds for civil/family legal aid and the administrative burden on you of legal aid processes.
We did not receive Budget funding, which was required to implement changes arising from the review. This means there will be no substantive changes made to legal aid policy settings this year following the outcome of the legal aid review.
We understand that many of you will be disappointed in the result and it is not what you may have been expecting. Legal aid reviews are scheduled for regular intervals and there will be an opportunity to examine legal aid policy settings in the future. In the interim, the Ministry has completed work, and is looking at further ways of reducing the administrative burden of legal aid and improving the provider experience.
During 2018 we were able to increase the remuneration rates for the Police Detention Legal Assistance service. We have also worked to reduce and simplify the legal aid application forms and the amendment to grant forms. We reviewed the policies around complex criminal cases and travel. We are currently looking at ways to simplify the invoice forms.
We have begun reviewing our provider application, approval, contracting and quality assurance processes. The intent of this work is to ensure that any improvements made will streamline, integrate and align with the rest of the legal aid system so that transactions are seamless, not administratively burdensome, purposeful to business operations and contribute to a successful working relationship with you. As this is a large piece of work, the Ministry will undertake two phases of work. The first phase will focus on a review of our provider application, approval and contracting processes and the second phase, will focus on quality assurance processes. The Ministry will work with you and other key stakeholders to take a co-design approach to our improvement activity.
Tracey Baguley, Legal Aid Services Manager
23/05/2019 -Thank you to everyone who completed the legal aid invoicing survey earlier this year. The majority of responses were positive and the feedback has been very useful.
Having conducted the review, we have decided we will be making some improvements. These include:
We are also investigating the possibility of making the Word template package Mac compatible. The purpose of the template package is to make your invoicing easier and quicker as it prepopulates information and calculates payment for you. Making it Mac compatible will expand this benefit.
At this stage we anticipate the new forms to be available in July, but we will update you closer to the time.
23/05/2019 - After considering feedback from legal aid providers, we have reviewed the policy relating to applications made under section 67 of the Parole Act 2002. As you may be aware, under the existing policy, legal aid is not available for these applications.
As a result of that review, we have now determined that an application under s 67 may be eligible for legal aid. The fact that a s 67 application can lead to an appeal under s 68 brings the application within the definition of "legal services" - s 4 (1) Legal Services Act 2011. Further, s 68 (2) provides that no appeal can be lodged under this section until the relevant order has first been reviewed under s 67. An application under s 67 is accordingly a necessary precondition for any subsequent appeal to the High Court.
The fixed fee ‘parole hearing preparation - other proceedings entitled to counsel’ is available for s 67 applications for the amount of $700.
If you have any questions, please email NSDOpsSupport@justice.govt.nz
23/05/2019 -We have recently received feedback about the way we currently consider travel to attend appearances. We have clarified this policy to ensure consistency in our practice. Necessary travel will be pre-approved to all attendances that result in hearing time being paid. An amendment to grant will not be necessary.
In determining whether travel is necessary, the provider is expected to consider whether the attendance can be effectively carried out another way; for example, via telephone, or the relevant person travelling to the providers normal place of work.
You can read more about travel disbursements on page 125 of the grants handbook, which is linked below.
02/05/2019 - The New Zealand Law Society has published an article in this week’s Law Points in relation to obligations and considerations when dealing with media enquiries.
The Ministry would like to remind providers that this applies as much to legal aid work as it does to any other work by a lawyer (see s 81(2) of the Legal Services Act 2011).
02/05/2019 – From 13 May 2019, the Auckland legal aid office will be administering parole, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court legal aid applications from customers located in Auckland and Northland. The Wellington legal aid office will continue to administer these applications for customers located in the Waikato and further south.
From that date, please send these types of legal aid applications for Auckland and Northland customers to AKLCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz, Fax 09 488 5441, or by post to BX10660 North Shore City.
Continue to send these applications for customers south of Auckland to WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz, Fax 04 472 5250, or SX10146 Wellington, if by post.
For clarification, Springhill Corrections Facility is in the Waikato and applications from customers in custody there, will be administered by the Wellington legal aid office.
This change is to align the geographical boundaries of our administration of all criminal legal aid and to improve the efficiency of our processing. Thank you for your cooperation.
24/04/2019 - On Wednesday 1 May we will be implementing a new duty lawyer invoice at all non PDS court sites. The new invoice has been tested at PDS sites and is working well. The invoice is more streamlined and will be faster for Duty Lawyers to complete.
We ask for your support in completing the invoices each day when you are at court and appreciate full information being provided in legible writing. This assists us in paying your invoices in a timely manner.
15/04/2019 – From 6 May 2019, the Wellington office will be administering family legal aid applications for proceedings in the Family Courts at:
Dannevirke, Gisborne, Hamilton, Hastings, Huntly, Morrinsville, Napier, Taumarunui, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, Thames, Tokoroa, Waipukurau and Wairoa.
From that date, please send legal aid applications for those locations to WGNFamilylegalaid@justice.govt.nz or SX10146 Wellington, if sending by post. This change is to align the geographical boundaries of our administration of family and criminal legal aid and to improve the efficiency of our processing. Thank you for your cooperation.
15/04/2019 - Disbursements for printing disclosure in criminal cases are pre-approved up to a maximum of $500 (or 5,000 pages at $0.10 per page). If the actual costs of printing disclosure are higher than the pre-approved maximum, re-imbursement may be claimed by seeking prior approval on an amendment to grant form.
Unfortunately, the new Amendment to Grant Form 51 indicates pre-approval is up to 500 pages. We apologise for this error. We are currently reviewing the invoice forms and will correct this amendment to grant form when improvements to the invoice forms are released.
15/04/2019 - You may remember that in July last year we amended the travel policy to allow non-local travel (defined as a return trip of over 50km or more than one hour) to be claimed where the duty lawyer is on the duty lawyer roster for a court.
We would like to take the opportunity to remind lawyers that non-local travel for the duty lawyer service is defined as travel involving a return trip from the provider’s normal place of work to the travel destination where:
If you think you may not have claimed for travel where the above has applied or you have a query regarding whether or not you can claim, please don’t hesitate to contact us on the following paymentsDL@justice.govt.nz
28/03/2019 - We are pleased to announce that we have finalised the new amendment to grant forms and high cost case policy.
The new policy takes effect from 1 April 2019, and the new forms should also be used from this date.
If you wish to read the new policy, please refer to the grants handbook.
The electronic Word template package (version 16) has been updated with the new forms and will be available to download from Monday morning at the page Download Word template packages.
The new forms will also be available in editable PDF on the Ministry's website at the page PDF Legal aid forms.
We would like to thank everyone who engaged with the review, and who has provided feedback throughout this process.
21/03/2019 - The Ministry of Health is seeking suitably qualified barristers and solicitors within the Northland Area for the role of Deputy District Inspector.
District inspectors (and deputy district inspectors) are lawyers appointed by the Minister of Health under section 94 of the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (the Act). District inspectors are appointed to ensure that the provisions of the Act are upheld. They assist in investigating complaints, ensuring that patients under the Act are cared for in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Act and principles of natural justice, and monitor the mental health services providing compulsory assessment and treatment.
Time commitment should be no more than 30 percent of practice. This role is specifically for a deputy district inspector, where appointment will run until 30 June 2020, when the next round of district inspector appointments will be held. The successful candidate will likely be appointed for the next term as a District Inspector. For more information about the role and how to apply, please visit the Law Society website(external link).
07/03/2019 – We are pleased to advise that we have finalised the new criminal and civil/family amendment to grant forms, and changes to the high cost cases policies.
Thank you to everyone who engaged with these reviews. Your contributions helped us to determine the best way to ensure that our amendment to grant forms and the high cost criminal case policies are fit for purpose and work well for you and our customers.
The submissions and decisions document linked below gives a summary of your feedback and provides context around why we have made the changes.
The new forms and the key changes to high cost cases policies are included.
08/02/2019 - We recently sought your feedback on proposed changes to the amendment to grant forms and the high cost cases policy. We have proposed simplifying and consolidating 11 amendment to grant forms into 3 forms; 1 for criminal, 1 for family and civil law types and 1 for the special area of Waitangi Tribunal grants. Changes proposed to the high cost cases policy will streamline our management of these most expensive and complex criminal cases, upskill our people and also make it easier for you to meet our information needs.
We are reviewing your feedback and hope to publish the final decisions and training document via a YouTube presentation within the next month, with a view to implementing the new forms and the revised policy from 1 April 2019. Thank you to everyone who gave feedback on these proposals.
17/01/2019 - As you are aware, over the last 12 months we have been undertaking a review of all of our forms in order to make it easier for you to engage with us and for us to process your requests quickly. Our next piece of work will be focussing on invoices.
To help inform this work we would like to better understand how legal aid providers invoice. Please take a minute to complete this 4 question survey in the link below. The survey will be available until 1 February 2019.
10/01/2019 – This is a reminder about our review of the current high cost case policy and amendment to grant forms. Within this review, the Ministry is proposing to combine the current eleven forms into three to mirror the application forms (Criminal, Civil/Family and Waitangi). The Waitangi amendment to grant form will stay the same.
We would welcome your feedback as it will help ensure the new forms are fit-for-purpose and meet the needs of our customers and providers. The consultation page is located at the link below and is open until 18 January 2019.
If you have any questions during the consultation, please feel free to contact Robert Ives, Service Delivery Manager at Robert.Ives@justice.govt.nz
Looking for old what's new items? What's new for legal aid lawyers articles from 2018 can now be found on the 2018 archive page.
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