Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): processing and payments

Payments on account in civil cases, inquests, police station remote attendance, mental health tribunals, family hearings, and travel and mileage.

Applies to England and Wales

Arrangements outlined here have been reviewed against the guidance set out for England and Wales by the UK and Welsh Governments in July.

Unless specified, end dates set against arrangements will be kept under review. We will give 3 weeks’ notice for restart dates, on a rolling schedule for legal aid providers.

Payments on account in civil cases

In civil representation cases you are entitled to claim a Payment On Account (POA) for your profit costs incurred throughout the life of your legal aid certificate. This is subject to the following restrictions:

  • certificate has been live for at least 3 months

  • you claim within the agreed cost limit of the certificate

  • you do not claim more than 4 profit cost POAs within a 12-month period

You will be paid 80% of the costs incurred to date. In a fixed fee case, up to 80% of the applicable fixed fees can be claimed.

Payments under the Family Advocacy Scheme (FAS) could be claimed up to 100% of the costs incurred as a POA. This will end on 30 September 2021.

This payment will be recouped and replaced with the final payment upon submission of your final claim. Here are some resources:

  • CCMS – you should refer to the CCMS Quick Guides ‘Payment on Account – Profit Costs’ – these can be found on the Legal Aid Learning website

  • paper claims – submit your POA through Legal aid: eForms

  • detailed guidance on POAs in general – refer to chapter 15 of the Civil Finance electronic handbook, which can be downloaded under Legal aid guidance

Inquests

One-off billing of work in progress

We are allowing providers to submit a one-off claim, including disbursements and costs, for their ‘work in progress’ costs on open inquest legal help matters. This is to help providers who undertake inquest work during the COVID-19 outbreak and experience casework delays.

This is a temporary change, so make sure these claims are submitted by the end of March 2022. You should note that you may only bill for your work in progress costs once per case. These arrangements apply to inquest work only.

How to claim

You should claim for your work in progress costs as you would do if it were a final claim for that matter. When the matter does come to an end, you should submit a claim amendment to claim the rest of the costs associated with that matter.

You must keep a record of all the cases where you have done this. If you have any further questions on inquest bills, contact your contract manager.

Claiming police station attendance fee

A joint interview protocol has been put in place by the following organisations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • National Police Chiefs’ Council

  • Crown Prosecution Service

  • The Law Society

  • Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association

  • London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association

The protocol sets out guidance on police station interviews during the outbreak.

Engagement continues to be encouraged between providers and the police to achieve the aims of the protocol in appropriate cases locally.

You should note that from 4 October 2021, revisions to the protocol have applied. These mean the presumption will be that attendances will be conducted face to face rather than remotely.

Exceptional circumstances, as set out in the protocol, means that some attendances will be conducted remotely.

As such a provider may claim the police station attendance fixed fee appropriate to the location where they attend remotely under this protocol, and their remote attendance:

  • goes beyond the advice normally provided under telephone advice fixed fee

  • covers the advice and assistance usually provided in person at the police station

Examples of this might include considering police disclosure, where provided, with the client. Also, advising the client on their case for the interview.

Providers may have to give advice and assistance requiring preparation of a written statement under Annex B of the protocol as an alternative to an interview.

In these circumstances, the police station attendance fixed fee may also be claimed.

File note

A file note should be kept confirming the advice and assistance provided and that the exceptional circumstances are met and agreed by the police. Advice previously claimed under the telephone advice fixed fee should continue to be claimed under the telephone advice fixed fee. As before, a provider should not claim the telephone advice fixed fee and the police station attendance fixed fee in the same matter.

Also, the fixed fee claimed should cover all work under the same matter. A Defence Solicitor Call Centre reference number will be required as normal.

These arrangements will be maintained until any further changes are made to the protocol. This will be subject to ongoing review.

Mental Health Tribunal Level 3 fees

Most Mental Health Tribunal (MHT) hearings will now be heard remotely. We can also confirm the situation with MHT level 3 fee payments. These will be payable where representation is carried out at a remote hearing intended to dispose of a case which would ordinarily have taken place in person.

Advocacy attendance forms in family cases

Attendance notes are already sufficient as evidence where the hearing is held by video or telephone conference, as per 6.5 of the Civil Finance electronic handbook which can be downloaded under Legal aid guidance

The handbook states:

An advocate’s attendance form may not be available in hearings undertaken by video or telephone conference. In these cases, notes of the hearing on the brief or an attendance note will suffice as evidence of the hearing.

If ‘bolt-ons’ are included as part of the claim, you should include details in the attendance note.

HMCTS is moving to make it easier to hold as many remote hearings as possible. This will reduce the likelihood of being able to get completed Advocates Attendance Forms (form EX506). LAA and HMCTS have jointly drafted guidance on what evidence is acceptable for remote hearings.

Travel and mileage

During the pandemic, practitioners have not had to justify their use of private transportation to socially distance or due to a lack of available public transport.

As all restrictions have now largely been removed, we will revert to the pre-pandemic approach for claims on all travel carried out after 1 October 2021.

The LAA is aware that the situation remains variable and local public health guidance will differ (for example in Wales). We will continue to be flexible on the issue of the use of private transport due to local conditions. Providers should keep a record of the reasons why private transport was used and should submit this as part of their claim.

Similarly, should local guidance suggest individuals work from home, we will be flexible on the issue on whether providers can claim travel from home rather than their offices. Providers should keep a record of the reasons why travel from home rather than an office was used and should submit this as part of their claim.

Guidance on the approach we have returned to from 1 October 2021:

Criminal Bills Assessment Manual – for crime lower claims

Crown Court fee guidance – for crime higher claims

Stay up to date

If you have any questions about your contract, talk to your contract manager.

We are monitoring the situation and will update any changes to operational guidance in the first instance on our digital channels:

We will also share information with representative bodies to share with their members.

Further information

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Legal Aid Agency contingency response

Coronavirus (COVID-19): contract management and assurance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): working with clients

Published 14 April 2020
Last updated 10 November 2021 + show all updates
  1. Edited travel and mileage - private and public transport claims

  2. Amendment to first sentence of 'file note' in section headed 'Claiming police station attendance fee'

  3. Update to content dealing with the protocol on police station interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  4. Confirmation that we will be reverting to the pre-pandemic approach to assessing travel - applies to crime claims on all travel carried out after 1 October 2021.

  5. Updated guidance for legal aid providers on processing and payments for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  6. Removing contingency on controlled work time limits as it has reverted to business as usual.

  7. Edit to amend dates for extension of contingency arrangements and to change text in civil claims and legal help escape cases.

  8. Edit to remove appeal assessment deadlines section.

  9. Edit to include new text about inquest bills and how to claim.

  10. Edit to text in Legal Help Escape Cases paragraph and insertion of links to CCMS final claims guidance.

  11. Amendments to the civil claims section.

  12. Changed link to LAA's new training website.

  13. Page updated to accurately reflect business as usual arrangements for the CRM7 paper-based process for non-standard fee magistrates’ court claims and appeals.

  14. 'Appeal assessment deadlines' section revised to include guidance on how to reopen an archived Client and Cost Management System case to appeal.

  15. Confirmation of flexibility on the time frames for submitting claims for Controlled Work.

  16. First published.