Coram Chambers1 Garden CourtFamily Law Week Email SubscriptionAlpha Biolabs

Legal aid bolt-on fee payments to be linked to advocate’s bundle under FAS

Government response published to consultation on court bundles and Legal Aid Family Advocacy Scheme

The Government has published its response to the consultation paper "Court bundles – Proposed changes to the Legal Aid Family Advocacy Scheme".

From 31 July 2014, provisions in PD 27A of the FPR 2010 will come into force which will introduce a maximum 350 page limit on the size of a court bundle in family cases. The aim of this limit is to streamline procedures and focus the attention of the court on the issues to be resolved. Hitherto under the Legal Aid Family Advocacy Scheme (FAS), advocates have been able to claim particular bolt-on fees in both public and private family law cases where the court bundle is 351 pages or more. Accordingly, this will prevent the majority of family cases reaching the current court bundle bolt-on payment thresholds under FAS, preventing advocates from claiming the additional payments they receive now.

In March this year, the Government consulted on proposals to change FAS. The Government received 19 responses and the clear preference of the majority of respondents was to link the current bundle bolt-on fee payments to the advocate's bundle, rather than the court bundle. This was suggested by respondents to the consultation as representing the most cost neutral solution for both family legal aid providers and the legal aid fund. The Government agrees with this view, subject to the introduction of appropriate controls to ensure that the content of the Advocate's bundle is limited to those served documents which are relevant and necessary to the case. The Government intends to amend FAS on this basis. The changes will come into force on 31 July.

The Government will now consider what action is needed in respect of potential necessary changes to the family legal aid payment schemes that may be required as a consequence of wider procedural and other operational changes within the new Family Court. This will include reviewing the new approach to the payment of bundle bolt-on fees.