Society mental health scheme to become mandatory

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Membership of the Law Society’s mental health accreditation scheme will be mandatory for legal aid practitioners from 2014, it emerged this week.

A provision is to be added to the legal aid contract under which only people with accreditation will be entitled to provide legally aided advocacy at a mental health tribunal. Currently firms are required only to have a supervisor who is a member of the accreditation scheme.

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In papers released for this week’s mental health and disability committee, the Law Society said that the change will improve the standard of advocacy before the tribunal. It stated there are precedents for mandatory membership of schemes to secure access to public funding.

Accreditation under the mental health scheme will cost £600 for initial application and £540 for reaccreditation. The Law Society said it does not intend to make a profit through the scheme. The accreditation scheme is set to be refreshed early next year.

The timetable for mandatory membership is still being discussed, but it should be in force once new contracts start in spring 2014.

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