Legal Aid: Civil news and updates
New document added to the LAA guidance on the 2018 standard civil contract in relation to:
Introduction of advice for Immigration and Asylum detainees in prison in response to successful challenge
New document: Immigration and Asylum Specification (October 2021)
... plus a new FAQ: Providing advice to immigration detainees in prison
Update ... they’ve now also issued a press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/civil-news-immigration-and-asylum-advice-in-prisons
[ Edited: 1 Nov 2021 at 11:06 am by shawn mach ]
ICYMI ... from last week’s budget (at paragraph 4.31)..
SR21 will deliver access to justice by continuing to invest across the justice system and expanding the support available for users. It will ... give additional funding to increase the thresholds for means-tested legal aid, to expand access to justice to those who cannot afford it and increase the capacity of the civil legal aid sector. As a result, millions more people could be eligible for legal aid at the magistrates’ court and for civil legal aid. It will also invest in the sustainability of the civil legal aid market, along with other potential changes to criminal legal aid ...
Changes to the Housing Court Duty Possession Scheme (HPCDS) contract come into force today:
The following contractual changes will commence on the 1 November 2021 and will initially be in place until the 30 April 2022. The arrangements will be reviewed on a 6 month rolling basis.
- Providers will now be able to claim both the HPCDS fee and the Legal Help matter start fee when a client assisted through the HPCDS goes on to be assisted under Legal Help
- Where a provider attends court for a possession listing and no clients are seen (i.e. a nil session) or only 1 client is seen they will now be able to claim as though they have seen two clients (i.e. two HPCDS fees will be claimed and paid)
These rules will apply to all claims made under the HPCDS from 1st November 2021 irrespective of when the listed hearing took place.
New housing and debt contract opportunities -
We are inviting tenders to deliver housing and debt contract work from 1 February 2022 until 31 August 2022 in the following procurement areas:
Cambridgeshire; City of Kingston upon Hull; Cheshire; Hampshire; Portsmouth and Isle of Wight; Shropshire; Staffordshire; South Tyneside; Trafford; and Wigan
We are also inviting tenders to deliver services in the following Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) areas:
Chester; Crewe; Hull; Mansfield; Portsmouth; and Stafford
HPCDS Services will start on 1 February until 30 September 2022, except for Mansfield which will start on 21 February 2022.
Tender deadline: 23 December 2021.
The LAA has issued an invitation to tender to administer its Specialist Quality Mark from October 2022:
A tender opened on 27 January 2022 to deliver auditing services for the Specialist Quality Mark.
The tender is open to any interested party that can meet the minimum tender requirements. We are seeking to award one contract for the delivery of this work across England and Wales.
We are also updating the SQM standard and SQM guidance. These changes will come into effect on 1 October 2022.
The deadline for the submission of tenders is 10 March 2022.
The government has laid draft regs for a pilot of legal aid for early advice on welfare benefits, debt and housing matters to operate for a two year period commencing on 1 April 2022 in the Manchester City and Middlesborough Council areas ...
New regs in NI:
Provide for a waiver of the financial eligibility rules that would otherwise apply in determining a person’s application for civil legal services to enable them to be represented in proceedings under Article 8 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.
These proceedings involve contact, residence, specific issues and prohibited steps orders relating to the care of children by people with parental responsibility for them.
The waiver would apply in circumstances where the person is a victim of domestic abuse, and where the person bringing the application against them is their abuser.
[ Edited: 24 Feb 2022 at 04:13 pm by shawn mach ]
The Legal Aid Agency is inviting expressions of interest for the delivery of housing and HPCDS services ... and for housing and debt work
Housing and HPCDS services
Expressions of interest are welcome from organisations currently delivering housing and debt work to deliver services starting as soon as possible in 3 HPCDS areas:
Crewe | Hull | Walsall
We are also inviting expressions of interest for the following HPCDS areas from 1 April 2022
Bath, Bristol | Lancaster | Stafford
This is for the delivery of HPCDS services until 30 September 2022. This opportunity is open to all 2018 Standard Civil Contract holders currently delivering housing and debt services and is not limited to current HPCDS providers.
Housing and debt work
We are also inviting expressions of interest to deliver housing and debt contract work in the following procurement areas until 31 August 2022:
City of Kingston upon Hull | Cheshire | Redcar and Cleveland | Shropshire | Staffordshire | South Tyneside | Trafford | Walsall | Wigan
This opportunity is open to all holders of the 2018 Standard Civil Contract and is not limited to current housing and debt providers.
The deadline is 12 noon on 14 March 2022.
Consultation launched on proposals for changes to the civil legal aid means test
The LAA has extended the 2018 Standard Civil Contract until 31 August 2023 (except for the immigration category, which will be extended for a shorter period)
New regs in Scotland:
This instrument makes provision to ... increase the financial limits for payments for advice and assistance under the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986, beyond which solicitors are required to seek prior approval of the Scottish Legal Aid Board before undertaking further work ...
These Regulations are considered necessary as a consequence of the increases to all legal aid and advice and assistance fees payable to solicitors and counsel by 5% introduced in 2021 and the further 5% increase which will be made in April 2022 (by the Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 which are being brought forward concurrently with these Regulations).
The Legal Aid Practitioners Group has published findings from the 2021 Legal Aid Census:
The Census demonstrates that legal aid practitioners are highly motivated and committed to their clients and to social justice. However, a lack of investment has caused significant issues across the legal aid sector, including:
- Considerable barriers for those seeking to enter the profession – from limited training opportunities to high levels of student debt that cannot be serviced by low salaries – this is creating a recruitment crisis across the sector
- Difficulties in retaining staff due to low salaries, a lack of career progression and a range of issues impacting adversely on staff wellbeing
- Fixed fees and hourly rates are too low and fail to reflect the complexity of the work, the vulnerabilities of clients, and the time taken to provide the services that clients require, leading practitioners to do unpaid work, work far longer than they are remunerated for and limiting the type of cases that can be taken on
These factors are primary reasons cited by practitioners for leaving legal aid and help to explain the steady exodus of lawyers and organisations from the sector over the last decade.
Changes are being made to the Specialist Quality Mark from 1 October 2022, relating to, for example, new requirements to:
- make sure organisations have internal procedures in place to ensure clear lines of communication, including as a minimum an internal communications plan and a regular cycle of team meetings;
- have a written safeguarding policy in place setting out the procedures to keep children, young people and vulnerable adults safe and respond to any safeguarding concerns;
- ensure that organisations take steps to identify whether there is any action they need to take to comply with modern slavery legislation;
- ensure that organisations that are required to comply with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 have an appropriate Anti-Money Laundering Policy in place;
- ensure that organisations have procedures in place to ensure client data is kept secure at all times and to protect the personal data from unauthorised or unlawful processing, accidental loss, destruction or damage and to maintain the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) contracts are being extended:
Why is this happening?
We are extending contracts to enable:
- publication of the Ministry of Justice response to the ‘Housing Legal Aid: the way forward’ consultation
- development and procurement of new contracts by the LAA
This needs to happen now because HPCDS services are currently being delivered through contingency contracts that end on 30 September 2022. So, these contracts, which maintain the 2013 Standard Civil Contract exclusive schedule arrangements, need to be extended.
All existing HPCDS providers will be offered an extension of their current contract running from 1 October 2022 to 29 April 2023.
Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) contracts are being extended ...
Joining the dots .. an announcement today: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/18340/
New MoJ consultation in relation to legal aid fees for immigration work ...
Ministers urged to abandon plans to extend fixed recoverable costs to housing cases:
Ministers have been urged to abandon plans to extend fixed recoverable costs to housing cases after being handed hard data to show the potentially catastrophic impact.
The Ministry of Justice plans to extend the fixed recoverable costs regime next April. However, earlier this month the department announced it would delay extending the regime to legally aided housing possession cases by two years after practitioners raised concerns about delivery and sustainability.
Practitioner groups and charities say the exemption should apply to all housing cases, telling ministers in a letter that fixed costs in housing disrepair counterclaims, standalone claims and unlawful eviction claims will hit organisations the most.
Ministers urged to abandon plans to extend fixed recoverable costs to housing cases ...
More from the Guardian:
New regs in force in Scotland from 1 October 2022 ... relate to temporary provisions inserted into the legal aid and advice and assistance regulations on a temporary basis during the coronavirus emergency period ...
The LAA has issued an invitation to tender to administer its Specialist Quality Mark from October 2022 ...
Tender outcome .... awarded to Recognising Excellence Ltd
Announcement from the Scottish Government:
Community Safety Minister Ash Regan has made a “substantial and credible offer” of support to Legal Aid practitioners.
A robust package of support was set out by Ms Regan in a letter to the sector today which builds on the increases to fees already introduced over the past three years.
More info: https://www.gov.scot/news/legal-aid-offer
2018 civil contract update from the LAA:
Civil news: 2018 civil contract extensions to include immigration
Providers working across all categories are to be notified of our intention to extend the 2018 Standard Civil Contract until 31 August 2023.
Why is this important now?
We want you to understand that the 2018 Standard Civil contract will be uniformly extended in all categories to 31 August 2023. This is a change to the previous announcement made in March 2022.
What does this mean for immigration?
It has been agreed that all immigration contracts will also now be extended until 31 August 2023. We will no longer be extending immigration contracts for a shorter period.
The Ministry of Justice is currently running a consultation on immigration fees, which closes on 8 August 2022.
Once this has concluded we will consult representative bodies on changes to the immigration contract because of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. We will then develop a tender allowing new providers to bid for immigration contacts.
LAA’s annual report and accounts for 2021/2022 are out: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/legal-aid-agency-annual-report-and-accounts-2021-to-2022
News re updated contract schedules from 1 September 2022:
LAA is inviting tenders in respect of:
1. Delivery of housing and debt contract work between September 2022 and August 2023 in the following procurement areas:
- City of Kingston upon Hull
- South east Wales
- South Tyneside
2. Delivery of services until September 2023 in the following Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme areas: