What's new for legal aid lawyers

Legal Aid Review

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

Legal aid invoices review

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:

  • Removing the need in fixed fee plus cases to complete separate invoices for the fixed fee and fixed fee plus activities.
  • More flexibility in the recording and calculation of the GST exclusive amounts for disbursements in the Word templates
  • Increasing the space for recording activities on some forms.
  • Improving information fields at the top of the forms.

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.

Legal aid is now available for section 67 parole applications

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

Pre-approved non-local travel

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.

Grants handbook for legal aid lawyers [PDF, 1.6 MB]

Obligations and considerations when dealing with Media Enquiries

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.

Some tips for talking to the media (or not)(external link)

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).

Parole, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court geographical split

 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.

Implementing a new duty lawyer invoice

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.

  • Some things will change such as:
    • Invoices will be located in a central place at each court and all invoices must be submitted by the court for payment, although some sites already have this in place.
    • Any travel claims for duty lawyers in line with the travel policy must be included on the duty lawyer invoice and not sent separately.
  • Some things won’t change such as Deputy Registrars will continue to sign invoices as is current practice.

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.

Where to send family applications

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, 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.

Printing disclosure in criminal cases

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.

Duty Lawyer travel

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:

  • the return distance is greater than 50 kilometres OR
  • the return travel time is greater than one hour.

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

Amendment to Grant and High Cost case policy

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.

Advertisement for position as Northland Deputy District Inspector of Mental Health

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).

Amendment to Grant Forms & High Cost Criminal Cases

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.

Amendment to grant forms and High Cost Case policy - submissions and decisions [PDF, 715 KB]

The new forms and the key changes to high cost cases policies are included.

Amendment to grant forms and high cost cases policy

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.

How do you submit your legal aid invoices?

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.

Legal aid invoicing survey (external link)(external link)

Review of high cost case policy and amendment to grant forms

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.

Legal Aid High Cost Case policy & Amendment to Grant form changes survey (external link)(external link)

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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