Having recently attended the COP User Group meeting, we are keen to report general updates, from the costs perspective.
The Court of Protection continues to be extremely busy reporting an increase in both applications and orders made over the last quarter. In terms of turnaround times, generally there has been a slight decrease in disposal times as compared to the previous quarter, although there still remains a significant backlog. Disposals times in terms of Property & Affairs Applications currently for the last quarter is currently 27.4 weeks and 34 weeks with regards to Health & Welfare Applications. This is not surprising, as we too have encountered additional delays in the COP for the assessment of costs especially since March 2020.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, to include managing home working as required for staff, the time required to facilitate staff training and the significant level of correspondence received are all factors attributable to the delays. Progress is being made to bring this down, to include an on-going recruitment drive. The oldest Applications currently being dealt with were received on 1st February 2021.
Processing times in terms of assessment of Bills of Costs currently stand at 11 weeks, the oldest bill currently having been received around the 29th January 2021. By the Court’s standards, as against the present background, this is considered as ‘not a shocking delay’. We would hope to see that turnaround reduce now the Courts and court users alike are familiar with the not-so-new electronic filing system, and changes resulting from the impact of the pandemic. The SCCO 2021 guide suggests assessments for PA and DA matters generally to be within 6 and 12 weeks respectively by way of comparison. Here at our R Costings, our data supports an average turnaround of 87 days from filing electronically to the date of assessment from April 2020 – March 2021 – 12.5 week average.
In terms of delay, points were considered that may assist in minimising delays. Applications sent to incorrect e-mail address appears to be a frequent issue that adds to the time it takes the Court to process matters. E-filing of bundles has also been adding to delays with some useful points being discussed to help minimise delays – R Costings has a dedicated team who deal with the e-filing of the initial assessment requests, and have recently implemented a new service to assist in the preparation of electronic bundles which we are finding is a massive assistance to our clients. We can create electronic paginated bundles regardless of whether you are still working with paper files, new electronic files or a system that currently incorporates both whilst you make the transition. Noting the issues suggested by the User Group, our service ensures that the following pitfalls are avoided;
- Size limit; being aware of the court size limit for accepting bundles – this differs across the courts
- There is no case bundling system at the Court of Protection. Hyperlinking bundles will assist as will making sure only essential documents should be included.
- Page limits on the size of bundles – check any relevant Order and limit where appropriate.
- Case Number – ensure the COP case number at the very least is quoted within the subject heading when e-filing (keep your eye out for our helpful webinar to guide you through the pitfalls of e-filing in the COP)
- Use of platforms – don’t use platforms that require the judge to set up a unique account to access documents
An update was provided by the Mental Capacity Policy Team as to current and on-going policy reviews. In terms of costs, reference was made to the review of proposed amendments to Practice Direction 19B which details Fixed Costs in the Court of Protection. The outcome of this remains outstanding but it was confirmed that steps will be taken to chase in this regard; we will of course keep you updated as and when changes arise.
Finally, a Property & Affairs Court User Group has been set up as a means for Deputies addressing practical questions. This is intended to be in ‘surgery’ style, taking a more discussive approach. Whilst the group cannot specific cases, guidance can be provided and the next meeting is scheduled for 24 June 2021 at 2pm.
Similarly, here at R Costings we provide a costs surgery in our Inside Law magazine, answering your specific costing questions. If you have any COP, bundle or e-filing related costs queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
By Rebecca Robson
Direct Dial: 01480 220823