ADLS Mental Health Roster transition to Legal Aid Services

The ADLS Mental Health Roster (Roster) was created in 1988 to provide an orderly system for the provision of legal representation to mental health patients. Since its inception, the administration of the Roster has been overseen by the ADLS Mental Health and Disability Committee (Committee).

Now that ADLS is no longer the regulator and is a voluntary membership organisation, and not every appointed lawyer on the roster is an ADLS member, ADLS’ Council has undertaken a review of the Roster as it became apparent that ADLS may no longer be the appropriate body to administer the Roster going forward.

Council has resolved, after consultation with the Committee and the relevant District Inspectors and Directors of Area Mental Health Services (DAMHS), that ADLS will no longer administer the Roster.

Both the District Inspectors and the DAMHS agreed that ADLS and the Committee should not continue to administer the Roster given its lack of jurisdiction, resulting inability to deal with complaints, and lack of periodic review procedures for those on the Roster. The District Inspectors and DAMHS also suggested to Council that the Roster should incorporate the lawyers currently on the waitlist (some have been waiting to join the Roster for almost six years), so that mental health patients have the best possible pool of lawyers from which to choose counsel.

Council also noted that the Roster is an ill fit with ADLS as it should not be involved in the allocation of public funding in terms of deciding who may be on the Roster and how work is distributed amongst Roster members. Council believes that the responsibility for the distribution of work should be in the hands of a body with lawful authority over the provision of that work – namely, the Ministry of Justice, Legal Services Agency (Legal Services). It is the obvious choice as the work carried out by lawyers on the Roster is funded by Legal Services.

Accordingly, Council passed a motion at its May meeting that the responsibility for the administration of the Roster will be transitioned to Legal Services. ADLS has commenced communications with Legal Services to begin this transition. ADLS will endeavour to make the transition as seamless as possible so that there is no disruption to the important service being provided to mental health patients. We expect that there will be clear communication to practitioners about the transition and any changes that are proposed by Legal Services for the Roster.

Council will also be recommending to Legal Services that:

  • all those on the waitlist with full legal aid approval be added to the Roster (with suitable induction); and
  • that a review of the system of rostered weeks should be undertaken as was suggested by both the District Inspectors and DAMHS.

Council thanks the Committee for its commitment to the Roster and trusts that the Committee will continue to support the Roster when it is under Legal Service’s governance.

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