News in brief – 11.07.2019

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Legal aid billing errors “in decline”

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) processed more than 700,000 bills within 15 working days of receiving them, with 99% of “complete, accurate bills” paid within 20 working days, exceeding the 90% target, its annual report has recorded.

It said the net error rate – the accuracy with which the LAA grants applications for legal aid and processes bills – was estimated at 0.65%, down from 0.8% in the previous 12 months.

Specific issues included “a continued risk of error on Crime Higher assessments due to the difficulty of validating electronically submitted Pages of Prosecution Evidence. Revised guidance and additional training for caseworkers have helped to reduce the impact of this issue and achieve a reduction in the overall Crime Higher error rate”.

It said the value of errors has reduced for Civil Representation billing as a result of improved guidance, “continued emphasis on quality improvements” and enhancements to the case management system. The level of error found on Crime Lower work reduced further in 2018-19, the LAA said, following enhanced auditing of providers, increased recovery of overpayments, and provider education

“Our estimated gross error was £17.9m (compared to £22m in 2017-18). A focus on continuous improvement and the recovery of overpayments has helped reduce the most likely level of error to a net position of £11m or 0.65% of expenditure (2017-18: £13.7m or 0.8% of expenditure). Based on the statistical sampling techniques used, we have 95% confidence that the actual level of error is between 0.38% and 0.92% of legal aid spend.

“In addition to identifying instances where providers have been paid more than is reasonably justified, our testing reviews also identify instances where there have been underpayments. In 2018-19, our estimated underpayment was 0.1% of the total legal aid expenditure (compared to 0.05% in 2017-18).”

The report highlighted the LAA’s ‘Transformation Programme’ to explore new ways of working through technology. “We have also begun piloting and implementing simplification and automation ideas to reduce manual interventions and streamline processes. Family Advocacy Scheme billing changes, using an evidence-based approach to inform decision making and travel automation in crime billing, automatically calculating mileage for providers, were good examples of this approach in practice.”



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11 Jul 2019

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