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Let's start with a very broad introduction to our main purpose and departments. When a solicitor applies for legal aid on behalf of their client, we decide whether to grant or refuse the application.
Criminal Applications take decisions on a range of different applications for criminal advice and assistance (including requests for increases in authorised expenditure), and criminal legal aid (including, for example, requests to employ expert witnesses and counsel).
Civil Applications assess civil legal aid applications including the financial eligibility for civil legal aid, and any contribution payable. They deal with advice and assistance applications as well as considering requests for increases in authorised expenditure in civil and children's cases.
More complex civil or criminal applications are dealt with by specialists within these departments. Some criminal and all civil applications are also referred to relevant solicitors within Criminal or Civil Legal Services.
Once legal aid applications have been approved Accounts Assessment examine solicitors' and advocates' accounts received for legal aid work, if necessary deducting sums for work that is not chargeable, and pays them for the work they have done (based on fee rates set by Parliament).
In civil legal aid matters, Debt Recovery collects contributions and expenses due to the Board from people receiving legal aid and their opponents and deals with any associated legal actions. Principal Sums deals with all queries and payment issues in cases where money has to be paid back to the Board from property that is gained or kept as a result of a grant of legal aid.
Assisted Person Investigations investigates claims that applicants have misled us about their financial circumstances. Compliance checks that solicitor's firms are complying with statutory and other codes when they are providing advice and assistance and legal aid; and they investigate alleged impropriety by solicitors and firms in relation to legal aid.
Policy & Development is responsible for running and developing projects and policy related to improving access to publicly funded legal advice. They do not deal with legal aid policy on applications, but look at the development of policy in relation to changing legislation on legal aid. Their Research team is responsible for (among other things) our stakeholder engagement programme, including our staff survey and surveys of the profession and of applicants and opponents.
We have other roles to support the overall functioning of the Board, within areas such as Finance and Accounting, Human Resources, Information Systems, Facilities (mailroom/reception/security etc), Audit and Communications.
The complexity and number of departments we have means we recruit for a wide range of roles at a variety of levels. Many of our staff are recruited at general administrative support (grade 1) level. Sometimes we recruit for Assessment Officer (grade 2) level. Most of these roles require an aptitude for figure work and an ability to interpret and apply policy and legislation. As a result, our staff often have administrative backgrounds in banking, finance, insurance, or legal administration.
With further experience staff may progress to Senior Assessment Officer and Specialist roles, and/or Team Leaders, Assistant Managers and Managers (grade 5 upwards). We also advertise directly for some of these roles as well as more recognisable specialist roles such as finance and accounting staff, IT developers and solicitors.