Legal Aid: Civil news and updates
Expressions of Interest open today for Housing & Debt Services in Buckinghamshire and Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes services in Milton Keynes and Blackpool & Preston.
This is going well then?
Not one person with a discrimination complaint was referred to see a legal aid lawyer in the last year, BuzzFeed News has learned.
New Ministry of Justice figures reveal the impact of legal aid cuts on people who cannot afford a lawyer to bring discrimination cases against their employer or companies they use.
The mandatory Civil Legal Advice phone line was designed to offer advice and triage cases, but of 4,655 people who called the line to try to get legal aid in a discrimination case, 2,608 were given further legal advice by phone, and none were referred to see a lawyer face-to-face.
Civil news: extension notices for civil contracts issued
We are issuing notices to all providers holding civil contracts to ensure coverage before the start of the new 2018 Standard Civil Contract ...
Couple of updates in relation to tenders for Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme contracts ...
- Cancellation of the Invitations To Tender for the Southwark and Islington Scheme Areas:
- Updated scheme area guides for: Birmingham, Hereford and Worcestershire, Bromley and Croydon, and Gloucestershire and Wiltshire:
At 17.19 on a Friday ..... notice received that Monday’s deadline for tenders for the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme has been extended to 11 December 2017
New regs, the intention of which, according to the accompanying explanatory memorandum, is -
... to expand and improve the evidence requirements, in order to make it easier for victims [of domestic violence], or those at risk of being a victim, to access legal aid. The new evidence requirements contain an objective element in the form of verification of domestic violence by a suitably qualified and independent party other than the applicant.
Coming into force: 8 January 2018.
Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2017 (SI.No.1237/2017)
LAA update re next steps in the 2018 civil contracts tender process ... orgs that submitted a bid should start to hear the outcome from this week
The Legal Aid Agency has announced that it will not be awarding any civil legal advice contracts for education and discrimination services after 1 September 2018 through the current process after receiving ‘insufficient compliant tenders’
As there are currently only a very small number of contract holders, this suggests that there were no or very few bidders prepared or able to deliver the new contracts due to start later this year.
Education and discrimination are gateway exclusive categories – all cases must go through the telephone service and there are no separate face to face providers – all face to face services are carried out by the telephone contract providers, if they deem it necessary.
It is not clear what the future of education and discrimination services will be. The LAA says it will discuss next steps with affected organisations.
But if there are currently no providers willing to bid, or no providers able to demonstrate they can provide services of sufficient quality at an acceptable price, it is hard to see how that will change between now and October, when the new contracts were due to start.
New, independent strategic review of legal aid in Scotland sets out a 10 year vision to allow for short term impact as well as more ambitious, strategic improvements.
- Putting the user at the centre including creating a consumer panel
- Maintaining the current scope of the legal aid fund but simplifying the process
- Investing in service improvement, innovation and technology
- Developing a new system for setting fees paid to solicitors conducting legal aid work
- Establishing a new arm’s length body responsible for delivery of publicly-funded legal assistance and increasing public awareness of its availability
A formal Scottish Government response to the report will be published in due course.
New from the Legal Aid Agency:
Update for organisations participating in the procurement process for 2018 face to face, Civil Legal Advice and Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme contracts.
The Legal Aid Agency has issued an update on the 2018 civil contracts tender process ...
... advising that organisations will be advised of the outcome of their face to face tenders between 19 and 30 March 2018.
Services under the new face to face contracts - and under the new Civil Legal Advice (specialist telephone advice) contracts - will begin on 1 September 2018, and services under new Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme contracts will begin from 1 October 2018.
Each contract will initially run until 31 August 2021, with an option for the LAA to extend for up to a further 2 years.
LAA update re: rule change for clients threatened with homelessness
Change from April 2018 means legal advice will now be available in England for anyone threatened with homelessness within 56 days.
The LAA is seeking to secure additional services in the following areas to ensure ‘universally good coverage’ for 2018 civil contract work:
- specialist legal advice delivered via the Civil Legal Advice helpline in the discrimination category
- Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) services for the Cornwall scheme area
- face to face family housing and debt and immigration and asylum services in some geographic areas
An expression of interest for the Cornwall HPCDS opened on 28 March and closes at 5pm on Friday 13 April. Other tender opportunities will open in April 2018.
The Ministry of Justice must prepare for another High Court battle after fed-up law centres were granted permission to challenge procurement changes for legal aid housing duty contracts.
The Legal Aid Agency has issued an invitation to tender for contracts in a *small* number of areas in Family, Housing and Debt, and Immigration and Asylum
(* the small number of areas where it has identified gaps include: Dudley; Solihull; Dorset; Gateshead; Hartlepool; Knowsley; Tameside; Herefordshire & Worcestershire; Shropshire; Staffordshire; Warwickshire; Wolverhampton; North Hertfordshire; Suffolk; Derbyshire; Nottinghamshire; Plymouth; Cornwall; Devon; Dorset; Barnsley; Hull; Doncaster; East Riding; Rotherham; Hartlepool; Northumberland; Redcar and Cleveland; Stockton-on-Tees; St. Helens; Bury; East Lancashire; Warrington & Halton; Wigan; Bexley; Oxfordshire; Portsmouth; Isle of Wight; Brighton and Hove; West Sussex; Swindon; Denbighshire; Flintshire; and Wrexham.)
Opportunity opens to tender for specialist legal advice in the discrimination category ... following the LAA’s Feb 2018 announcement that it had cancelled the procurement process for new services following receipt of insufficient compliant tenders ...
The Legal Aid Agency has announced that a new tender opportunity for 2018 face to face contract work will open shortly.
Opportunity arises because -
Our existing tender processes mean that we have already secured services in most procurement areas ...
However, we have also identified a number of organisations which wish to deliver civil legal aid but failed to submit compliant tenders in the category of law or procurement area in which they wish to deliver work.
The purpose of the procurement process was to allow organisations which want to deliver publicly funded civil work and meet the LAA’s minimum requirements to do so.
As a result, we are giving organisations this further opportunity to tender.
Law Centres Network and Public Law Project win their JR against the Legal Aid Agency about challenge to tenders for housing duty desk schemes.
Legal Aid Agency provides more info on the ‘Further Face to Face procurement process’
(i.e. further to the Main Procurement Process and the Supplemental Face to Face Procurement Process!)
Legal Aid Agency cancels the 2018 Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme process as a result of recent Law Centres Network High Court victory
In accordance with its right at paragraph 8.24 of the Information for Applicants document, Applicants are notified that the LAA has cancelled the procurement process for HPCDS in its entirety.
This means that the LAA will not proceed with the award of any contracts under that process.
The decision to cancel the procurement process in its entirety has been taken in order to give effect to the Administrative Court’s decision dated 22 June 2018 (case number CO/5321/2017) in the judicial review proceedings brought by the Law Centres Federation t/as Law Centres Network against the Lord Chancellor.
More re the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme tender ....
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is inviting organisations to submit a tender for an exclusive schedule under the 2013 Standard Civil Contract (as amended) for a contingency period in specific courts* from 1 October 2018.
This is following some organisations not accepting the previous offer to deliver HPCDS services beyond 30 September 2018.
The tender is open to any organisation that has successfully verified its tender for a contract in the Housing and Debt categories through the main, supplemental or further face to face procurement processes.
Contracts will be offered for an initial period of 12 months subject to the LAA’s rights of early termination and the right to extend the contract up to a further 1 year.
* in Bodmin and Truro; Chichester, Horsham and Worthing; Colchester; and Winchester.
Interesting developments late on Friday ...
Friday PM .. from the Law Society Gazette:
Several legal aid providers are still waiting to receive new civil contracts which are due to begin tomorrow ... The Law Society has urged the Legal Aid Agency to issue urgent advice to providers about what their position is in relation to existing and new contract work.
Friday evening .. from the Legal Aid Agency:
We have been made aware that there are a number of providers who have been told that they have passed verification but have not yet been able to accept their contract ahead of the contract coming into force tomorrow .... in order to protect service provision for next week the LAA proposes the following approach until Friday 7th September ....
Interesting developments late on Friday ...
More from the Gazette:
“What was notably absent from [the Legal Aid Agency’s] update was an apology or an explanation for what went wrong”
More from the Legal Aid Agency:
On Friday 31 August we set out our approach for providers who had been advised by us that their contracts had been verified but have not been able to execute their contract. This interim approach is in force until 7th September 2018 ....
Lord Chancellor agrees to provide for the backdating of legal aid certificates:
Matrix Chambers were instructed by Duncan Lewis Solicitors in a claim for judicial review of the Legal Aid Agency’s refusal to backdate legal aid certificates, even where solicitors have made a legal aid application as promptly as possible and it is necessary to begin work to secure access to justice for a client before the Legal Aid Agency has time to grant a certificate.
The Government has agreed to amend the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 to expressly allow for legal aid certificates to be backdated to the date of application for legal aid.
From the Legal Aid Agency re: Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme services in England and Wales ...
Legal aid Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) Services in England and Wales are currently being maintained through contingency arrangements.
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has identified an issue with access to legal aid HPCDS Services covering specific HPCDS Schemes.
The LAA is inviting Applicants to submit a Tender for an Exclusive Schedule under a 2013 Standard Civil Contract (as amended) to deliver HPCDS services in specific courts for an initial period to 30 September 2019 with the right for the LAA to extend the contract from 1 October 2019 for a maximum further 12 months.
The LAA is offering up to four contracts in each of the following HPCDS Schemes:
• Bodmin and Truro
These Contracts will commence on 17 December 2018.
A full list of contract-holders able to carry out civil legal aid work under the 2018 Standard Civil Contract is now available.
This follows publication of the outcome of the procurement process for the award of the new 2018 contract.
The notice of outcome document lists in full the organisations and offices that have been awarded contracts, along with the category of law that they offer.
Contracts have been awarded to 1,578 organisations.
Meanwhile in Scotland:
Solicitors and advocates providing people with advice and representation through the legal aid scheme in Scotland will receive a 3% increase in fees.
The increase, to take effect next April, was announced as part of the Scottish Government’s wider response to Martyn Evans’s independent review of legal aid.
The response also sets out plans for the establishment of a payment review panel, the streamlining of administrative processes and regulations to simplify fee structures.
A public consultation will be launched next year with responses informing the design of a user-focused and flexible legal aid service tailored to meet the needs of a modern Scotland.