REFUGEE & MIGRANT JUSTICE
Thank you for your letter of 7 June, about the financial difficulties faced by Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ). You are no doubt aware that since you wrote the Board of Trustees decided to place RMJ into administration. Jonathan Djanogly MP, Legal Aid Minister for
The most important issue now that RMJ has decided to enter into administration is the arrangements for its clients. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) is working closely with the administrator and others to ensure that urgent arrangements are made so that clients continue to receive a good quality service. The LSC has experience of handling the transfer of work when a provider leaves the market and is satisfied that there is adequate capacity to absorb the extra workload. Though some initial disruption is unfortunately inevitable, every effort will be made to minimise this. The LSC are making urgent arrangements for other providers to take on RMJ cases.
Also, Ministry of Justice officials are in contact with the Tribunal Service and the
It may reassure you to know that there are many organisations providing legal services in this area of law, operating from over 250 offices across
It is not entirely accurate to say that providers have to wait for cases to conclude before receiving payments. All providers of legal aid receive Standard Monthly Payments from the LSC which are reconciled periodically against claims submitted for cases that have either closed or have reached the stage where a claim may be made. LSC funding arrangements aim to reconcile claims against payments at regular intervals to ensure that public funds are protected. These arrangements enable asylum and immigration providers to reconcile costs in a reasonable period for the vast majority of their cases.
The LSC analysis of claims submitted by asylum and immigration providers suggests that approximately 80% of stage claims are made within six months of a file being opened and approximately 90% are made within nine months. Payment for immigration and asylum work was previously determined according to the number of hours spent working on each case. This arrangement was replaced by the Graduated Fee Scheme, which was implemented in October 2007.
In recognition of their historic funding arrangements, RMJ continued to receive payment based on time spent on all cases opened up to 31 March 2009. They received a monthly credit for the further work they did on these cases without having to wait for a stage billing point. This applies to a significant portion of their caseload.
The LSC agreed a more favourable arrangement with RMJ than was agreed with other Not for Profit providers. Most other NfP's have been reconciled in accordance with the agreed Transitional Arrangements and these organisations are continuing to meet their contractual obligations whilst being paid in line with the published fee scheme and payment arrangements. RMJ were paid what was due and in fact had transitional credit arrangements that other organisations did not enjoy. The support from which RMJ have benefited has therefore been very considerable. However, they did not make the efficiency savings that others did.
So far as the longer term is concerned, the LSC is currently running a tender round for new contracts for asylum and immigration from October 2010. There has been an increase in the number of offices applying to do the work and bids for more than double the amount of cases available.