The LSA has issued the key messages for suppliers for February 2020.
When it is appropriate, the Agency uses the Integrated Court Operating System (ICOS) to verify information when assessing a request for payment. If there is a discrepancy between what is provided on the request for payment and the information recorded on ICOS, the Agency will seek clarification from the supplier via the message facility. Suppliers will be asked to confirm the correct information to be considered for the assessment, if the supplier indicates that the information recorded on ICOS is incorrect, they will be asked to provide additional information to substantiate the entry on their payment request. The Agency will consider the information provided and assess accordingly. If the supplier disagrees with the decision, a request for a review may be submitted within 21 days of the date of payment.
Practitioners are reminded that when they are uploading Authority requests for instruction of experts that we require an estimate from the Expert. The estimate must clearly set out their hourly rate; the number of hours anticipated to complete the interview/examination and report; confirmation of their VAT registration status; a maximum total fee; confirmation as to whether they will require to see the Applicant and their court fees - for a full and half day court attendance. Additionally, please upload the Expert’s CV, any Court Orders/Counsel’s directions in relation to the instruction and the Letter of Instruction, if available. Having all of the necessary information in an easily identifiable format will speed up the adjudication on the request and should reduce the number of queries raised.
When uploading a ‘Review Request’ practitioners are asked to ensure that they select the correct category that relates to the decision which they seek to be reviewed. The options are Authority; Merit Outcome; Payment; Statutory Charge and Revocation/Discharge/Suspension. If the correct category is not selected the functionality will not allow us to process the Review to completion. Incorrect Review requests will be withdrawn and the narrative in the withdrawal will state that it is an incorrect request type and will advise what type of review should then be uploaded. The practitioner will receive an automatically generated email in relation to the withdrawal.
The Agency are working on new arrangements in relation to the provision of Applicant Declarations however, until this is finalised and notified to the profession, you are asked to ensure that you upload the correct Declaration in each case type. The LAMS pathways will guide you to the appropriate Declaration for your case type as you upload the request in any event. We have however noticed that frequently the incorrect Declarations are uploaded and this delays adjudication.
The Agency have allocated additional resources to assist with clearing a backlog in adjudication in relation to Rep Higher civil legal aid applications. We are currently working on first line adjudications in matters which were received in mid-October 2019. We are working on amendments and authority requests which were received in December 2019. Children’s Order applications, authorities and Rep Lower applications are generally completed within 3 working days of receipt. While we appreciate the profession will want to seek updates in relation to outstanding matters, we would ask that requests for updates via message are minimised. Should a matter, which is awaiting adjudication, become urgent then use can be made of the process in Circular 25/19 in appropriate circumstances.
Inappropriate Characters in LAMS
For all fields the following characters will be accepted by LAMS from both the supplier and employee side (all standard keyboard characters):
If a user has entered a character which is not permitted by the whitelist they will receive an error when they try to submit/save the information. This error takes the form below:
In addition, the field where the character has been entered is highlighted as per below:
Users should review their text and ensure that only the characters listed above have been used. Users should be aware that if you copy and paste text from a Word document to a LAMS field, you will need to ensure that characters and symbols have not been autocorrected by Word prior to pasting, as the autocorrected character may not be accepted by LAMS as it is not a standard character. For example, Word may elongate a hyphen or change three full stops to an ellipsis.
If, when trying to submit requests on LAMS, the error message below is displayed, this indicates that the NICS Firewall has blocked your submission to LAMS. If this error message is displayed you should contact 028 9040 888 providing the details of what you were doing and the Support ID that has been provided. See below for example:
Authority Requests in Exceptional Funding (i.e. Civil) Matters
Practitioners are asked to note that submission of an authority request is required on LAMS when applying for or seeking extension to grants of Exceptional Funding. This includes requests for preparation hours. The Agency shall no longer be accepting amendment requests where additional preparation time is sought. It should also be noted that ALL requests in Exceptional Funding matters are to be submitted by the instructed solicitor. Counsel MUST make applications for additional preparation time through their instructing solicitor who will submit the authority request on LAMS on their behalf.
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