We are making changes to the way we process applications for criminal legal aid following feedback from providers.
The criminal applications team (CAT) will now adopt a more pragmatic approach when considering whether to reject an application.
This means that our first step will be to find a way of obtaining any missing information rather than rejecting. But we do reserve the right to reject.
Our new approach does not replace the importance of submitting a properly completed application form.
Making sure that you answer all of the relevant questions is the quickest way to help caseworkers make the correct funding decision.
You can find guidance on completing the form in the Criminal Legal Aid Manual at annex 18. This annex is also available as standalone guidance in a document on GOV.UK. See links below.
It also remains the case that the easiest way to reduce the number of applications that are rejected is to use the CRM14 eForm. The eForm has automatic checks that tell you when something is missing.
Processing your application
When a caseworker is processing an application they need to decide whether there is any missing information on the form, which could affect the funding decision.
Where possible they will review the existing information about the case on our computer systems or Libra to help them determine whether the application can be accepted.
If appropriate caseworkers will contact providers by telephone in order to obtain the information they need where the application cannot be granted without it.
Importance of responding on the day
Where the provider is unavailable or does not have the information to hand we will provide a telephone number/e-mail address and a deadline for an answer on the day to our enquiry.
If the provider can provide the necessary information before our deadline, then the application will be processed. If it is not possible, our reject will be sent along with a letter detailing the missing information we need to process the application.
It is important our approach to the direct telephone numbers/email addresses we will give out for you to contact caseworkers is understood. These should only be used after agreement with the caseworker and in respect of that particular application.
We will keep this policy under review and only supply these contacts when you are going through the ‘soft reject’ process.
All other enquiries should continue to be sent to the main CAT phone lines or CAT query mail boxes.
Criminal Legal Aid Manual – see annex 18 for guidance on completing forms
Criminal legal aid application form – download help on form completion in ‘Guidance for CRM14 and CRM15’