Employment Lawyers and Civil Litigators: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply for Matter Starts 

If your firm has experience in personal injury, tort and contract claims then now is your chance to consider expanding your legal aid practice to include bringing claims for victims of trafficking and modern slavery. If your organisation has employment and discrimination law expertise, and wants to do employment law under legal aid, then this is your opportunity. 

All face to face contracts in the Legal Aid Agency’s (LAA) Invitation to Tender for a 2018 Civil Contract include the opportunity to apply for up to 100 Matter Starts to undertake compensation claims for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. This work is in scope under paragraphs 32(2) and (3) and 32A (2) and (3) of Part 1 of Schedule 1 of LASPO.

ATLEU are encouraging firms to apply for Miscellaneous Matter Starts so that they can undertake this vital work for victims of trafficking and modern slavery. Following ATLEU’s judicial review against the Lord Chancellor, the Ministry of Justice and LAA conducted a review of existing arrangements for providing legal aid for advice and assistance in respect of trafficking and modern slavery compensation claims. The review found that the likely demand for Legal Help for these cases was not being met. Now the LAA are making additional Matter Starts available to providers.

Useful information about running a compensation case for a victim of trafficking

In 2014 the Home Office estimated that there were 13,000 people living in slavery in the UK today. The National Crime Agency (NCA) have since said the numbers are likely to be higher. To be eligible for Legal Help the victim does not need to have been referred under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which is the identification process for victims of trafficking and slavery. 

Many victims will have claims for unpaid wages, discrimination, harassment, false imprisonment and assault and battery. Claims can frequently be worth upwards of £100,000 just for a failure to pay the National Minimum Wage.

Legal Help covers all steps up to pre-action for claims in the County or High Court following which the provider can apply for a public funding certificate. The costs of advocacy are in scope as is cost of an enquiry into the Defendant’s assets. Cases are often lengthy and Certificate limits can be high. 

Cases in the employment tribunal can be run up to and including hearing on Legal Help and providers can apply for Exceptional Case Funding to cover advocacy in the Employment Tribunal.

Compensation work can sit well alongside the work of your immigration department. Pursing a compensation case can be an important argument in a victim’s application for leave to remain. 

Applying for Matter Starts 

Compensation claims are not allocated under a contract specific category. Instead providers apply for Miscellaneous Matter Starts at the same time as they respond to an ITT for any civil face to face category. 

An applicant may apply for 25, 50, 75 or 100 Matter Starts. Where the applicant seeks more than 25 Matter Starts in their first year they will need to make a “business case” for more. This requires them to demonstrate: 

(i)    Their knowledge/experience of trafficking and/or modern slavery claims and their relevant legal expertise
(ii)    How clients will access their services (ie. signposting or referral arrangements)

Providers will not be able to self-grant a further 50% of their Matter Start allocation in the Miscellaneous Category. However, providers can apply to their Contract Manager for Supplementary Matter Starts in the Miscellaneous Category.
To assist those who do apply for Matter Starts and are interested in developing a practice in this area of work ATLEU is intending to provide training before the start of the 2018 Civil Contract. 

In the meantime if you want to find out more about the work you can email queries to atleuteam@atleu.org.uk.