Interpreters (including BSL) and Legal Aid

I wanted to ask if anyone could offer any advice/assistance on this.

When we represent clients who need an interpreter, in our area the fees are for a minimum 3 hour period, regardless of how long the appointment is. They inform us they cannot allocate an interpreter for less time than this. We have now had this questioned by the LAA and claims for disbursements declined. This is a particular issue for us with BSL interpreters, who charge more.

Does anyone have any similar experience?

Hi Louise,

We have a similar problem, but the last time I looked the minimum time was only 2 hours.

When I need a BSL interpreter and/or a relay interpreter I get at least three quotes and send them to the EC-MHU at the LAA pointing out the problem and reminding them of their public sector duty.

When I get the response back that I should choose the cheapest one, I put that on file and submit it when the file is assessed. I draw the assessor’s attention to the email from the LAA and that heads off any reductions usually.

We did have one file that was reduced despite the email from EC-MHU so we appealed it and the disbursement got restored and paid in full.

Good luck!


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Yes,that is the trend in many places.

what are we to do though if a claim is disallowed even on appeal? We are faced either with footing the bill ourselves (not possible financially) or declining to act for vulnerable clients, which is clearly against the interests of justice

Well yes, you’d have to foot the bill, or at least the difference between the bill and the guideline rate.

Our appeal seemed to uncover that the original assessor hadn’t actually seen then email and it was an error.

If the EC-MHU writes to you with a direction to proceed on the cheapest quote, then I think that the LAA would be on very shaky ground if it tried to then go back on that direction.

I can’t give any guarantees of what the LAA will/won’t do so the decision on whether to take the chance on reduction of payment of course lies with you/your supervisor.