Fixed-fee rules scupper advice team

The London Advice Services Alliance is closing its appeals team with the loss of four jobs because of funding changes by the Legal Services Commission.

The appeals team, which represents people who are claiming benefits and have been refused, will close in October - one year after the commission, which runs the legal aid scheme in England and Wales, introduced new unified contracts.

The contracts stipulate payment by fixed fees rather than hourly rates.

The alliance and many other charities that provide similar LSC-funded legal services say they will lose out under the new structure because they deal with the most complicated and time-consuming cases.

Andy Gregg, chief executive of the alliance, said it was "deplorable" that services were being forced to close.

"The Legal Services Commission's fixed-fee regime is really starting to bite," he said. "Unfortunately, Lasa's appeals team is the next in what we anticipate to be a long line of similar closures throughout the sector."

Wai-Fong Pang, policy and voice development officer at the alliance, said: "People need specialist advice, but they are not getting it because services such as ours are closing."

Other charity services have also felt the effect of the changes. Two centres that are members of  Advice UK have, and in April Citizens Advice said its bureaux were facing financial difficulties.

Sarah Finley recommends

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