Controlled work

Most work in mental health law is carried out under the contract as controlled work. Each firm is allocated a certain maximum number of matters (‘new matter starts’) per schedule period (usually the financial year), although these can be increased in line with the provisions of the contract (see Legal Aid Agency, ‘Requests for Supplementary Matter Starts: Guidance to Contract Managers’ (22 January 2016)).

Types of funding: Legal Help Legal Representation
Merits test: Sufficient benefit test Reasonableness test
Means testing: Usually means-tested Non-means-tested
Types of matter: Non-tribunal Tribunal
Fee levels: Non-tribunal Level 1 tribunal Level 2 tribunal Level 3 tribunal

There is now a single Legal Aid form for both funding types (CW1&2 MH). If the client refuses to sign because of his condition then a supervisor can sign for him and provide a detailed written explanation. In Tribunal matters, put your signature under the ‘Controlled Legal Representation’ declaration.

During the coronavirus pandemic the guidance (Legal Aid Agency, 'Coronavirus (COVID-19): working with clients' (14/4/20) - last updated 6/8/21) states:

In situations where it is not possible to directly obtain a client signature, you should make a note on the file explaining why, countersigned by a supervisor.

You should also make a note on the relevant form itself, explaining the specific reason why a signature cannot be obtained. Simply referring to COVID-19 will be insufficient.

In these circumstances, you will also be required to provide express evidence. For example, email exchanges or telephone attendance notes. The evidence needs to demonstrate one of the following:

  • the client formed the appropriate intention to sign and submit the application form, or
  • you have been directly appointed by a court or tribunal to act for the client

In order to avoid delays or issues with processing, you should seek a signature at the earliest possible opportunity.

You may still submit a claim if you are unable to secure a client signature, including a digital signature, where:

  • it is clear reasonable attempts have been made to secure the client’s signature and you have provided evidence of the client’s intention to sign the form, or
  • you have been appointed to act for a client by a court or tribunal


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