Legal Aid: Civil news and updates
New from the Legal Aid Agency ...
A tender is now open for the delivery of services from 1 June 2021 under Immigration Telephone Advice (ITA) contracts.
The tender is open to any interested party that can meet the minimum tender requirements. We are seeking to award 2 contracts, each delivering half of the ITA service.
The deadline for submitting tenders is 9am on 18 January 2021.
Services under the new contracts will begin on 1 June 2021.
New regs in Scotland -
The main purpose of this instrument is to ... amend legal assistance legislation so that Scottish Child Payments and payments from, or in connection with, the Windrush Compensation Scheme will be disregarded by the Scottish Legal Aid Board when assessing the disposable income or disposable capital of a person who wishes to receive advice and assistance, civil legal aid or children’s legal aid.
The instrument will also disregard Scottish Child Payments and payments from, or in connection with, the Windrush Compensation Scheme from calculations of any amount of fees and outlays to be taken from any property recovered or preserved for an individual in the course of proceedings.
New from the Legal Aid Agency ...
A tender for the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) to be delivered in Leeds opened on 16 December and will close at 5pm 19 January 2021.
This opportunity is open to all 2018 Standard Civil Contract holders currently delivering housing and debt services.
The contract will be offered from 1 March 2021 until 30 September 2021, subject to the Legal Aid Agency’s right to extend for up to a further 12 months.
New Civil Legal Aid regs for England and Wales:
- disregard specific payments for the purposes of assessing an individual’s financial eligibility for civil legal aid. Specifically, payments from the England Infected Blood Support Scheme (EIBSS), the Welsh Infected Blood Support Scheme (WIBSS), the Scottish Infected Blood Support Scheme (SIBSS) and the Infected Blood Payment Scheme for Northern Ireland (NIBSS) as well as earlier infected blood support schemes, namely the Macfarlane Trust, the Macfarlane (Special Payments) Trust, the Macfarlane (Special Payments) (No.2) Trust, the Eileen Trust, MFET Limited, the Skipton Fund, the Caxton Foundation.
- disregard payments from specific UK compensatory schemes set up to address injury caused by state error and serious incidents in the UK external to state actions, namely payments made under the Vaccine Damage Payment Act; government-funded compensation for individuals diagnosed with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD); criminal injuries compensation schemes in Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and payments from the National Emergencies Trust, We Love Manchester Fund and the London Emergencies Trust Fund.
- remove the £100,000 limit on the amount of debt secured by a mortgage or charge which can be deducted from the value of an individual’s interest in land. This will mean that all debt secured on the property will be deducted from the total value of the land when assessing a person’s capital, so that only the equity in the land (main dwelling and other properties) will be assessed as capital in the means test.
New Civil Legal Aid regs for England and Wales: Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI.No.1584/2020)
From the Public Law Project:
Changes to the legal aid rules have been laid in Parliament today that will allow more homeowners on low incomes to access legal aid. The rule change will particularly benefit survivors of domestic violence, with many more able to have legal representation in family proceedings, reducing the risk of being cross examined by their abusers in court.
The Government agreed to change the rules on ‘imaginary capital’ in response to a challenge brought by PLP on behalf of a domestic violence survivor and working mother of two who was denied legal aid for family proceedings. ‘Rebecca’ [not her real name] was told she was not eligible for legal aid because she owns her own home, even though there is almost no equity in the property.
Changes will come into effect in the New Year.
Legal aid solicitors will benefit from a 10% uplift in legal aid fees and have access to a £9 million fund to help those experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19.
Following meetings with the Law Society of Scotland, the Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed a package of further support made up of:
- a 10% uplift in fees to be delivered over the next two financial years
- a resilience fund of up to £9 million of grants available to support legal aid solicitors and Law Centres who have had a loss of legal aid income due to Covid and
- reform of fees for criminal summary and solemn business including an enhanced fee for appropriate guilty pleas in solemn cases
Alongside the existing offer of up to £1 million to fund up to 40 trainees in legal aid firms, it means the total package of Scottish Government support for the legal aid sector will be up to £20 million.
LAA news release further to the regs we linked to above ...
The Legal Aid Agency has implemented the changes made to the regulations to ensure that claimants of specific compensation schemes are not disadvantaged in applying for legal aid.
There will now be a mandatory disregard for these 6 schemes, when applying for civil legal aid -
- Relevant Infected Blood Support Schemes covering England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (and earlier support schemes)
- Payments under the Vaccine Damage Payment Act
- Compensation for people diagnosed with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
In addition, there will be a discretionary approach applied to these 4 schemes -
- Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (including the Northern Ireland CICS)
- National Emergencies Trust
- We Love Manchester Fund
- London Emergencies Trust Fund
The new legislation also removes the existing cap on the amount of mortgage debt that can be deducted from a property’s value, so that all mortgage debt will be deducted.
New tender opened today for the delivery of housing and debt services in 14 procurement areas:
Calderdale, City of Kingston upon Hull, Cornwall, Doncaster, East Riding of Yorkshire, Hartlepool, Leicestershire and Rutland, North Hertfordshire, Sandwell, Shropshire, Somerset, South Tyneside, Warrington and Halton, Wirral
Applicants can bid to deliver housing and debt services in a procurement area through either:
- an in-person, face to face service delivered from an office that is a permanent presence in the procurement area
- a digital service delivered via a video technology platform, from an office that is a permanent presence anywhere in England and Wales
Contracts will be offered from 1 April 2021 until 31 August 2021, subject to the Legal Aid Agency’s right to extend for up to a further two years.
The tender closes at 5pm 18 February 2021.
The Legal Aid Agency has announced that existing face-to-face 2018 Standard Civil Contracts (due to end on 31 August 2021) will be extended until 31 August 2022.
In Scotland ...
A coronavirus (COVID-19) resilience fund for legal aid firms and law centres, worth up to £9 million, has opened for applications.
The Coronavirus Resilience and Recovery Fund for Legal Aid has been created to provide financial support to enable legal aid services to the public to continue - assisting those practitioners that have had a reduction in legal aid business levels because of the restrictions in place.
The fund is open to any legal firms whose turnover is usually at least 20% derived from legal aid payments, and who have experienced a drop in projected income from new legal aid business, once any other form of COVID-related government support is taken into account.
The deadline for applications to the fund is 31 March 2021.
Jane Harbottle has been appointed as the Chief Executive of the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and Director of Legal Aid Casework, taking the posts on a permanent basis after serving as interim chief executive and director since July 2019 ...
Earlier in her career, Jane conducted fraud investigations, litigation and debt recovery in the private sector. She joined the Legal Services Commission (the LAA’s predecessor organisation) as a contract manager in May 2000.
Couple of updates from the LAA:
- formal notice of the extension to the 2018 Standard Civil Contract as announced in January 2021 has been issued to all holders of the contract advising that the contract will now end on 31 August 2022 (although there is no requirement to accept the extension):
- the outcome for the recent Housing and Debt Services from 1 April 2021 procurement process has been published:
LAA cancels procurement process for award of new Immigration Telephone Advice Services in England and Wales from 1 June 2021:
On 10 December 2020, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) published an invitation to tender for Civil Legal Aid, Immigration Telephone Advice Services (ITA Services) in England and Wales from 1 June 2021 on its e-Tendering portal.
In accordance with the LAA’s right to do so pursuant to paragraph 5.24 of the invitation to Tender Information for Applicants document, Applicants are notified that the LAA has cancelled the procurement process in its entirety.
This means that the LAA will not proceed with the award of any ITA Services contracts under that procurement process.
The LAA received insufficient compliant tenders that met the minimum quality requirements. The procurement process therefore did not result in the award of any contracts to provide ITA Services from 1 June 2021.
To ensure on-going access to ITA Services for Clients beyond 1 June 2021, the LAA has extended the existing contract with the current ITA Services provider (Optimus Law Ltd) for a period of 12 months to 31 May 2022. During this time the LAA and Ministry of Justice are undertaking a review of the ITA service to consider the commission of this service in the future.
A tender for the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) in Slough has opened today ..
- contract will be offered from 1 July 2021 until 30 September 2021, subject to the LAA’s right to extend for up to a further 12 months.
- opportunity is open to all 2018 Standard Civil Contract holders currently delivering housing and debt services.
- tender closes at 5pm on 7 June 2021.