Skills for Justice response to Policing in Austerity: One Year On

In its report, Policing in Austerity: One Year On, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) notes that police forces across England and Wales have risen to the financial challenges of the spending review. However, police forces across England and Wales plan to reduce frontline officers by 5,800 by 2015. In addition, forces have reduced back-office functions, with training and human resources provision reduced by up to 50 percent.

Such significant changes to the workforce will require police forces to look to completely new ways of working. In order to achieve the transformation required and maintain standards, the work and support that can be offered by Skills for Justice at this time may be crucial.

Skills for Justice works closely with all police forces and law enforcement agencies throughout the UK and their associated Government Departments, national assemblies and staff associations.

Through the Policing Professional Framework (PPF), developed in partnership with the National Policing Improvement Agency, Skills for Justice has identified the essential standards needed for all policing roles. The framework enables training to be focused and streamlined to ensure that it is properly targeted and delivered in the most effective and cost-effective ways.

The PPF has enabled forces to focus on the skills needed to meet current and future demands, instead of simply focusing on overall headcount as a measure of capability and capacity. This is critical for meeting those demands with a smaller but better-skilled and more flexible workforce

At a time when direct policing services, such as forensic science and communication rooms, are being outsourced to other organisations, the PPF provides a clear set of competence standards for these roles. This reassures communities that the competence of officers in these roles and the service they provide meets the highest standards.

Working in partnership will be another key part of adapting to these new conditions. To make the necessary savings while providing the best possible service to the public, forces will need to form partnerships with each other, with other emergency services and in better collaboration with related services such as courts and prosecution services. 

To help employers develop a better knowledge of their role within the criminal justice system, Skills for Justice is leading a UK-wide project to help employers develop a Justice Sector Awareness Package.

As part of a series of projects funded by the Employer Investment Fund, Skills for Justice is collaborating with employers to develop a user-friendly package to help people in the sector gain a better understanding of their role, how this impacts on other roles in their organisation and related organisations within the wider criminal justice system.

Paralegals to play more important role

LAW firms are expected to increase the number of paralegals they employ by 18 percent over the next five years according to research by Skills for Justice. A survey conducted by the not-for-profit skills organisation found that legal employers would increase the number of people taking on paralegal functions from an average of 42 per firm to 49 per firm by 2017.

And with Skills for Justice working with employers to develop a recognised apprenticeship framework underpinned by National Occupational Standards (NOS) for paralegals, 83 percent of firms said they would be interested in taking on apprentices in this sector.

This is great timing as Skills for Justice in partnership with CILEx, Pearson and Damar Training recently secured nearly £1 million pounds from Government to develop a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services which will be perfect for school leavers.

Alan Woods OBE, Chief Executive, Skills for Justice, said: “It is important that we give employers the opportunity to tell us the benefits people employed as paralegals bring to their business and how they see the future for this area of the legal sector.

“This research has highlighted some very interesting findings for us. We look forward to working in partnership with employers and our partners to create recognised paralegal apprenticeships, and increase opportunities for young people to develop careers in law.”

The 51 firms surveyed, including some of the Top 10 firms in the UK, told Skills for Justice they employed a total of 2,143 paralegals – however by 2017 this number is projected to rise to 2,522.

The business area that currently employs the highest number of paralegals is personal injury civil litigation, with 48 per cent of organisations saying they employed paralegals in this field. This was followed by domestic property conveyancing at 43.5 per cent, commercial property conveyancing (37 per cent) and debt recovery at 37 per cent. Over the next two years employers expect wills, trusts and administration of estates to become another big area for paralegals.

Having completed the first set of draft National Occupational Standards in June, Skills for Justice has just launched a six week national consultation on them which will underpin all apprenticeships.  The consultation will run until August 6.

 Employers surveyed said the majority of apprentices they employed were in Business Administration – however, after the development and approval of the paralegal framework, firms expect to employ hundreds of apprentices.

 The first commercial paralegal national apprentices are expected to be employed in July 2013.

Industry to benefit from government funding for new Legal Services Higher Apprenticeship

Led by Pearson in Practice with The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), Damar Training and Skills for Justice the legal services industry has secured almost £1m of Government funding to create 750 Higher Apprenticeships by March 2015.

The Higher Apprenticeship will offer work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 4 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills, as well as knowledge-based, technical qualifications equivalent to a Foundation Degree.

With the increasing demand for talented and qualified paralegals, added to the well-published increase in tuition fees likely to see a more competitive market for graduates, the Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services will target young people with enthusiasm for a paralegal career but who have chosen not to pursue a degree. The program is expected to attract hundreds of new, young and talented people to the industry – the talent that the employers previously could have missed out on.

Fiona McBride, CEO of Pearson in Practice, said: “We welcome the Government’s continued emphasis on higher level Apprenticeships as a true and credible alternative to university education and are pleased to be able to bring this into the legal services sector.  It reveals what we believe is a shift  in public opinion about the value of vocational learning and demonstrates a widespread understanding of the important role that Apprenticeships play in setting young people on the path towards not just a job, but a sustainable and fulfilling career.”

Diane Burleigh, Chief Executive of CILEx, said: “We’re delighted to receive approval for this project. It will extend our ability to support law firms to invest in their future and current employees by capitalizing on the skills and qualifications they already have. It will offer paralegals greater opportunities for career development. It will support the quality assurance of legal services.  We very much look forward to working on this exciting new opportunity for vocational learning in law with our partners.”

Jonathan Bourne, Managing Director of Damar Training, commented: “The qualification will be designed to meet the needs of the growing paralegal workforce and allows firms to fully integrate apprenticeships into their paralegal career structures. It will create exciting opportunities for many bright, ambitious people who will then go on to generate real value for their employers and clients.”

Alan Woods OBE, Chief Executive, Skills for Justice, said:“We are delighted to be working in partnership with CILEx, Pearson In Practice and Damar Training to create 750 higher apprenticeships in the Legal Service sector. We feel this project will be a game changer in terms of how firms recruit and retain talent to deliver high quality legal services and remain competitive in these difficult economic times. The opportunities this will deliver for young people wanting to enter the sector straight from school is unprecedented.”

The new level 4 Higher Apprenticeship will help firms recruit and develop, the knowledge and skills of their paralegals who have either already completed levels 2 and 3 or are non-law graduates. Specialist technical pathways will be created, including personal injury, commercial litigation and debt recovery.