The advantages of centralisation
A Legal Services Commission case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Human Resource (HR) services are at the heart of all organisations. They are the processes and systems set up to look after an organisation's people. They include recruitment of new employees, organising their induction and a range of activities concerned with looking after the welfare of the employee at work, for instance, health and safety and working conditions.

This case study looks at why and how a number of HR activities have recently been centralised at the Legal Services Commission (the Commission) and the benefits these changes have brought to staff, the public and the organisation.

Legal aid

The Legal Services Commission receives a budget from the government each year. This is used to help over two million people access legal aid in England and Wales. The Commission contracts with solicitors and other legal organisations, such as law centres, to provide legal services in the form of advice and legal help to a large number of people on low incomes.

Legal aid is a system of government funding to enable people who would otherwise not be able to afford legal services to obtain these services.

The Legal Services Commission funds its legal providers, solicitors and advice agencies to:

  • advise people on their legal problems (such as coping with debt)
  • help people understand their rights and the law
  • advise people detained in police stations
  • if necessary, represent people in court.

The Commission is currently engaged in a process of reform to ensure that taxpayers receive the best possible value for money by making its internal administration as cost-effective as possible. Achieving this involves moving selected services from regional offices back to the centre. This is part of a big 'push' that is taking place across UK public services including the Department of Work and Pensions and the Prison Service.

The Commission is aiming to achieve value for money by reorganising staffing to use skills more effectively and streamlining systems to provide services more efficiently.

Until recently, each of the 13 regional centres of the Commission had its own Human Resources manager and several advisers. This decentralisation led to the following problems:

  • Inconsistency Human Resources policies were delivered in different ways, in different areas, resulting in different outcomes
  • More staff reporting 'unfair practices' for example, some areas allowed variations to the official flexitime policy while others did not.

Legal Services Commission | The advantages of centralisation