In response to the changes made through the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) SI laid today, which comes into force on 8 June 2020, Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, said:
“Whilst we recognise that the Legal Aid Agency is working hard to address hardship in the legal profession for those doing publicly funded work, regrettably, for so many barristers working in the area of immigration, the announced plans will be insufficient. Many proposals that would make a real difference to the livelihoods of immigration practitioners have not been adopted, even, for example, hourly rates that mean counsel is paid fairly for work done. We are especially concerned by the lack of meaningful consultation with representative bodies on this new structure. The new fee structure will result in immigration practitioners continuing to be underpaid for their work. These measures ought not to be implemented. The LAA must properly hear and consider the views of those immigration practitioners actually doing the work. So far this obvious step has not been taken.
“Ongoing liaison between practitioners and the LAA which allows those affected by these changes to give their input on the operation of this system is crucial. The system cannot afford to wait a year until the sunset clause kicks in, only to find the financial damage to barristers’ practices is irreparable and a cohort of experts has left the profession to the detriment of the public they serve. At the very least, the LAA must commit to regular reviews to understand the impact on the profession and whether it is able to withstand the changes, particularly in light of the additional challenges that Covid-19 presents to justice and those working for it.
“The Bar Council fully supports the position of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, as outlined in their statement.”