The only cases currently being dealt with by the SCCO outside target timescales are those arising from Court of Protection proceedings.
As of 14 April 2023, there were 5,975 Court of Protection bills of cost awaiting assessment. This is made up of 5,544 bills under £35,000 with waiting times of 38 weeks and 431 bills with a value of between £35,000 and £100,000 with waiting times of 47 weeks. The current time taken to issue a certificate in Court of Protection cases is 20 days from the assessment having been agreed. The party then submits the certificate to the Office of Public Guardian to authorise payment from the protected party’s fund.
Solicitors are not required to wait until the SCCO has assessed their bill and issued the certificate before receiving payment for costs. Court of Protection Rules enable solicitors to reimburse themselves for work undertaken in the first three-quarters of the year up to a maximum of 75% of the estimated annual charges. The total figure approved by the SCCO is adjusted to reflect any such payments made during the course of the year.
The SCCO is running a pilot in which professional deputies appointed by the Court of Protection, their legal representatives and other legal professionals involved in Court of Protection cases, may file their bills in respect of general management and other applications electronically where the relevant authority has been obtained from the Court of Protection. The pilot of this electronic and expedited process is due to conclude on 28 April 2023.
HMCTS is committed to reducing the time taken to deal with Court of Protection Bills and has also reallocated resource to help with this.