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Legal Aid trains administrative and clerical staff for better Legal Aid delivery.

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 Effective Legal Service Delivery In Ghana

Legal Aid Holds Workshop For Administrators and clerical staff

 DATE: 8TH SEPT – 12TH SEPT, 2015

 VENUE: ANITA HOTEL, EJISU, ASHANTI REGION

 SPONSOR: UNDP GHANA

 

BACKGROUND TO THE WORKSHOP

Mr Alhassan Yahaya Seini, Executive Director of Legal Aid Scheme Ghana, said, the objectives of the workshop were to equip participants on professional standards of service delivery, their role in achieving the vision and mission of the Scheme, understanding legal aid and the law on legal aid in Ghana, harmonising the Scheme’s operations in all its offices across the country as well as resource management.

According to him, the contribution of the administrative and clerical personnel to the overall success of the Scheme’s vision cannot be overemphasised, adding that teamwork, relationship building and harmonisation were key to providing satisfactory service delivery.

He stressed the need for clients’ feedback for regular assessment of the Scheme’s performance and service delivery.

 

UNDERSTANDING LEGAL AID – THE VISION AND MISSION AND HOW PERSONNEL FIT INTO IT

This presentation focused on the establishment of legal aid in Ghana, and extensive discussion on the vision/mission of LAS and the role of personnel in achieving the vision.

In 1987, the Legal Aid Scheme was established by law as an institution to provide free legal aid services on all criminal matters and some selected civil cases to all citizens, with focus on vulnerable and less privileged citizens.

To achieve the Scheme’s vision and mission of being the leading agency delivering professional and quality legal service to the poor in need of cost effective justice while partnering with stakeholders in the justice system, personnel of LAS must endeavour to demonstrate high professional standards at every level of its service delivery. The guide to legal aid delivery in Ghana and work ethics should be adhered to.

 

THE LAW ON LEGAL AID IN GHANA

The mandate and scope of LAS was explained in this session

The mandate of Legal Aid Scheme is to act as public defender for poor and vulnerable people in need of cost effective justice in the country. The constitution stipulates that opportunities for securing justice should not be denied any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. Therefore, LAS has the duty to provide the platform for those who need legal aid but cannot afford it.

The scheme’s services cover all citizens (nationals and foreigners in Ghana) who have a need to act on or respond to any constitutional matter; on all criminal matters and some selected civil cases.

According to the law on legal aid, a Judge of a superior court can direct and assign a person who need legal aid services but cannot afford to the scheme for representation. A client of the Scheme who does not approve of a lawyer assigned him/her can object and demand for another lawyer for representation.

The scope of legal aid services include; Legal advisory services in all matters, ADR services in all civil and non-grave criminal matters, Legal representation in all criminal matters, and Legal representation for juveniles.

The Scheme is constituted by twelve (12) member Board representing the relevant institutions and bodies.

 

 

 

GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE LEGAL AID SCHEME

Participants were taking through best work practices as personnel of LAS

The Client Service Charter-

The client service charter aims to ensure commitment of LAS personnel in the deliverance of quality service to all clients in accordance with its mandate, vision and mission by adhering to the Guide for Legal Aid Delivery in Ghana and keeping to professional standards of service delivery. Regular service evaluation through feedback from clients will be carried out and if necessary measures considered for improvement.

The Relationship between Legal Aid and ADR

ADR is a subset of legal aid but cannot be substituted for legal aid. ADR seeks resolution of cases brought before it through mediation for agreed settlement between the parties. Legal aid on the other hand usually relies on a third party in a competent court of jurisdiction for the determination of cases in most matters although it also focuses on out of court settlement when possible.

Conflict of Interest

It is required that a staff of the Scheme who is attached to a case or have personal interest in a case, makes disclosure of conflict of interest in the matter before hearing of the case begins. This is to ensure that the person who makes the disclosure is detached from the case to avoid doubt of honesty and fairness in the process.

Professional Standards of Legal Aid Staff

Personnel of LAS are expected to promote the image of the Scheme by exhibiting good conduct, providing satisfactory timely service delivery, building and maintaining relationship with clients and stakeholders. The role of personnel in the Scheme was explained to them. Management of all matters related to the scope of LAS work, confidentiality and privacy of official documents and client information must be guided by ethical and professional requirements.

File Management -

It is important to keep proper records of forms, files and all documents received and issued in Legal Aid Scheme. Files should be properly kept to preserve documents from deterioration, destruction or being lost and for easy accessibility when required. Documents include correspondence received or sent out, information and instruction on beneficiary, court documents etc.

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COMMUNICATION AND CLIENT RELATIONS SKILLS

Definition of communication, types, barriers as well as client relationship building skills were discussed using graphical illustrations.

Communication is the process of exchanging information between a sender and recipient with an understanding of the message.

The purpose of communication is to give information, motivate, and influence an action. The channels and tools of communication used are determined by various factors including the status of the recipient, purpose of the message, urgency of the communication, cost, resources, confidentiality, distance, safety and security.

Communication in LAS

  • Internal communication – communication is within the organization from top to down, and between colleagues (vertical and horizontal).
  • Personal communication – this is personal communication by staff.
  • External communication – communication from LAS to client and stakeholders.

Barriers to communication (physical barriers, perception barriers, emotional barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers) can affect the effectiveness of communication.

Client Relations Skills – client satisfaction is key to achieving LAS success. Client relationship building starts from the first contact of the client with the Scheme through to the end of their case. Personnel should be mindful of verbal and non-verbal communication since it can create negative perception about personnel in particular and the Scheme in general. Avoid discrimination, be patient, attentive, avoid miscommunication and demonstrate time management skills.

 

 

HUMAN RESOURE AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

Participants were schooled on the LAS expectation of duties of personnel and good customer service practices.

Human resource - Legal Aid Scheme personnel have duties and roles to perform per their employment contract. Personnel should be ready to take up other job roles as may be required by the Scheme rather than what they were originally employed to do. Monitoring and review of personnel performance would be carried out regularly.

Customer service – Best customer service practices for customer satisfaction was discussed. Staffs were tasked to provide clients with the necessary assistance and right information without discrimination, and demonstrate good mannerism at all times in order to guarantee quality service to client and all those who access the scheme’s services.

 

 

 

RELATIONSHIP WITH BENEFICIARIES

This session focused on LAS beneficiaries and how personnel should relate to them.

Beneficiaries are individuals or groups of people who benefit from the services of Legal Aid Scheme. Relationship with beneficiaries leads to confidence, trust and encourages frank communication. Beneficiary engagement, requirement and expectations will be successful with effective communication. Staffs were asked to create cordial relationship and network with beneficiaries in order to achieve the goals and targets of the Scheme. Creating and maintaining good relationship with beneficiary is important but must be done within professional principles.

 

 

 

QUALITY ASSURANCE, FEEDBACK AND RESPONSE         

It centred on the maintenance of desired level of quality in service delivery, gathering feedback and the call to action on the feedback.

Quality assurance means providing quality service delivery to clients in the performance of LAS duties using specified requirements and making sure services provided are consistent in all LAS office in accordance with the Constitution and the Guide to LAS Delivery in Ghana. Personnel should take detailed information from clients to ensure proper understanding of the clients issue in order to provide acceptable standard of service, create an enabling environment for good mediation process and create relationship with clients. The quality assurance process can be assessed through mechanisms such as Peer review, Self-Evaluation, Performance indicators, Client satisfaction, Feedback, Procedural compliance. Quality assurance increase client confidence on the Scheme’s services.

Feedback and Response - The Scheme can get feedback of its service delivery by means of feedback boxes, open channels of communication and reaching out directly to clients. It is important to respond to feedback and take appropriate action if required.

 

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