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'Bills will take longer to complete and are likely to be held up by requests from the LAA for standard information that cannot be initially included within the bill, and are more likely to be rejected due to errors caused by process deterioration,' the report concludes. 'This will result in significant delays to payment, which will impact upon the cash flow of providers who are already operating on profit margins that do not allow significant (if any) contingency.'Article continues below...
"the principal (monthly) periodical dealing with contemporary issues" Sir Mark Potter P
'CCMS is supposed to drive the LAA’s operational efficiency. But the unresolved issues we have seen indicate that efficiency will decrease, not only for the LAA but very seriously so for providers.Law Society President Andrew Caplen says:
CCMS is supposed to reduce payment errors, but the challenges to system use will lead to an increase in errors on bills, which could result in an increase in payment errors.
The fact is that CCMS billing has been built against a flawed business process, after the LAA tried to change something it has not taken the time to understand. In doing so, the LAA has ignored both the essential characteristics of what makes it work at the moment and the basics of information management: to make the right information available to the right people at the right time.
Mandating this system in its current state will obstruct the efficient provision of what remains of legal aid, further constraining representation. We call on the LAA to make an honest appraisal of the current sorry state of CCMS and take action accordingly.'
'This report indicates that there are a significant number of serious concerns with the billing aspect of this system, which many of our members will not yet have encountered. We look forward to the Legal Aid Agency’s urgent response to this report. If the problems have been correctly identified, it is difficult to see how the system could currently be considered fit to become mandatory.'A spokeswoman for family lawyers group Resolution says:
'We thoroughly endorse this report and repeat our call for the LAA to urgently review the CCMS and delay implementation if necessary. Our work with Resolution members using the pilot system confirms the findings of the ACL report – the CCMS is not fit for purpose and will cause serious problems for practitioners if made mandatory in October in its present condition.'Carol Storer, Director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, says:
'We welcome the report from the ACL. While there is a huge commitment by the profession to working electronically, any system delivered must be fit for purpose. It is two and a half years since the system was launched and practitioners continue reporting to us so many problems with CCMS that we have to question the ability of the LAA to deliver an effective system. It is difficult enough to carry out legal aid work without fighting an IT system that is clunky, frustrating, and in some respects is simply unworkable.'A Mental Health Lawyers Association spokeswoman says it too supports the findings given members’ concerns that CCMS is 'not working satisfactorily'.
'Through a combination of cuts and stifling bureaucracy, legal aid providers are already struggling. If they are forced to adopt the CCMS system, it could be the last straw for many, with dire consequences for access to justice for the public.'The report is available to download here.