The Legal Aid Agency has updated its Civil Finance Electronic Handbook, which is a document provided to caseworkers to assist them when dealing with assessment and processing of costs. Rather than signalling major changes to approach the amendments mainly focus on providing clearer or additional clarification of certain issues. Page 2 sets out all the amendments that have been made and a number of these relate to making clear where differences arise between CCMS and paper claims. One area that has caused some confusion is which CCMS tasks can be claimed and how much time is likely to be allowed. The general approach taken by the Legal Aid Agency has been that any task that had an equivalent task with paper claims would be allowable and at a similar level to the time expected in paper cases. The updated handbook now includes some guidance at section 2.4 highlighting some of the more common items of preparation and the times that would be likely to be allowed. The guidance could have gone further by also specifically stating the CCMS related items that they consider to be ‘administrative’ and therefore not claimable. A welcome change is the new revised Chapter 16 dealing with rejected claims.
The Legal Aid Agency recently announced some changes to the reject process that would result in more situations being dealt with as priority returns, this is now reflected in this chapter which provides a series of tables showing which reasons would cause a hard reject as compared to those which would be dealt with as priority return. The tables also helpfully separate out paper claims from claims made within CCMS. There are various other amendments including additional guidance on risk assessments by process servers, orders for transcription fees and DNA testing of grandparents. It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with the amendments that have been made.