7. Legal Aid Impact Test
7.1. The Bill will have implications for the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB). The Financial Memorandum has estimated costs to SLAB of between £0.14m and
£0.28m a year. This is for additional cases as a result of clarifying that a person under the age of 16 may apply for and be granted an order under section 11 of the 1995 Act and that not all orders grant PRRs.
7.2 Child Welfare Reporter fees are currently paid either by the parties to a case themselves or by SLAB if parties are eligible for legal aid. Following the enactment of the Bill, this cost would no longer fall to SLAB. Instead, the cost of Child Welfare Reports would be met by the Scottish Government, either through the organisation contracted to manage the register of Child Welfare Reporters or directly if the Scottish Government should run the register in-house. In 2018/19 SLAB paid £3.7m in Child Welfare Reporter fees.
7.3 The Bill will improve access to justice as currently if a party is not eligible for legal aid they may have to pay for a child welfare report themselves. The Scottish Government has heard anecdotally from stakeholders that this can cost up to
£10,000. Once these provisions in the Bill are in force then all Child Welfare Reporter Fees will be paid by the Scottish Government.
7.4 The prohibition on personally conducting a case requires a party who has been banned to have a lawyer appointed for the rest of the case if they do not instruct their own lawyer. Once a ban has been imposed a party would have the opportunity to either appoint a lawyer themselves – either privately or through SLAB if they are eligible for legal aid. If a party does not appoint a lawyer themselves then the court will order a lawyer to be appointed from the list held by the Scottish Ministers. The fees of the lawyers on the list held by Scottish Ministers will be paid by Scottish Government rather than through legal aid.
7.5 The Bill does not make any changes to the funding regime for child contact centres. Currently contact centres are funded through a variety of means including Scottish Government funding, Big Lottery grant, grants from other bodies, fees paid by SLAB and fees privately paid by individuals.
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