The Professional Deputy Costs Guidance stipulates that the SCCO will usually allow one home visit within a 12-month period. However, it is noted that more visits may be required in order to meet the needs of P.
In relation to any additional visits throughout the management period, the Deputy would need to justify these attendances and the time claimed. If necessary, they would need to reference the Mental Capacity Act or the Professional Deputy Standards and clearly set out the benefits of the attendance to P.
Costs Officers tend to only allow the costs of one fee earner at any attendance, except in the most exceptional circumstances! The Costs Officers often refer to the wording within the Professional Deputy Standards and the case law of Garylee Grimsley (1998) and R v Legal Aid Board Ex Parte Bruce (1991) in support of this as it was stated that;
“In so far as expense is involved in adding stock in trade, it is an overhead expense and not something that can be charged to the client”
Understandably trainee fee earners will attend meetings for training purposes alongside the main fee earner. In these instances, I would recommend that you only claim the time of the highest grade of fee earner so as to not distort your overall costs recovery and to also protect your firm’s reputation.
In terms of exceptional circumstances that could be applied, these may be things such as safety of the fee earner as the environment may be hostile. However, in my experience, I have only ever seen two fee earners being allowed a handful of times.
I would ask any Deputy or fee earner to use their own judgement in deciding whether two fee earners were necessary and look at the reasonableness of the same and whether the time/costs claimed is proportionate so as not to incur any unnecessary costs.
Danielle Walker, Costs Lawyer and COP Specialist