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Legal Aid: Civil news and updates

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shawn mach
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Here are the new ‘Legal Aid for Separated Children’ regs:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2019/1396/made

shawn mach
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Update to this page (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-legal-aid-services-from-september-2019) says -

We have published the outcome of the recent tenders for the 2018 Standard Civil Contracts from 1 September 2019 for:

• Specialist Telephone Advice services in the categories of Housing and Debt, Education and Discrimination
• Face to Face legal services in the categories of Education and Discrimination

However, I can only see the outcome for education and discrimination services ...

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/846597/2018_Standard_Civil_Contract_-_Education_and_Discrimination_Services_from_1_September_2019__Tender_outcome.pdf

shawn mach
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The Legal Aid Agency has issued a new invitation to submit an Expression of Interest to deliver the Willesden Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/850668/Willesden_HPCDS_EOI_notice.pdf

Stuart
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An older case recently added to bailii which may be of interest, the Court of Session in Glasgow CC v The Scottish Legal Aid Board and PQ {2017} CSOH 155 quashed a decision to grant legal aid to challenge a community care decision in Scotland on grounds including that the claimant (PQ) did not give fair notice of the case to the council when requested -

To do so would have presented no difficulty. He had to inform the Board about the proposed grounds of appeal. Otherwise it could not have decided the application. He should have given the same information to GCC. That would not have involved any breach of confidentiality. If the relevant information was contained in a legal opinion that also contained views about the prospects, PQ could have excerpted the relevant parts or redacted the confidential parts.[35]    I wish to emphasise that fairness also applies at the review stage. That is because the specific duties imposed on a decision-maker by legislation may be minimum requirements …

I conclude that the Board should have told PQ that it was not prepared to consider his application until he provided sufficient notice of the case to GCC. The Board has a general power to do anything which it considers necessary or expedient for securing the provision of legal aid: section 2 of the Act. It can specify the form of initial and review applications: Regulations 5 and 20.’

shawn mach
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HPCDS opportunity for 2018 standard contract holders ....

We are inviting tenders from 2018 Standard Civil Contract holders currently delivering housing and debt services to deliver Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) services in Boston and Lincoln.

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.

Closes 6 February 2020.

More: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/civil-news-hpcds-opportunity-for-2018-standard-contract-holders

 

shawn mach
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From the LAA:

We have a new customer service Twitter account (https://twitter.com/LAAHelpTeam) to give providers another channel to raise operational concerns ...

LAA Chief Executive Jane Harbottle said: “This provides an alternative way for providers to tap into the expertise of our customer services team ....”

More: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/civilcrime-news-twitter-customer-service-feed-for-providers

 

shawn mach
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A couple of bits and pieces from Hansard ...

Justice Minister Wendy Morton yesterday:

‘We are in the process of launching a series of pilots offering support to people with social welfare problems such as housing ... we believe in access to justice, particularly early legal support for those people who absolutely need it. We have pilots, and the innovation fund is being introduced. The Government remain firmly committed to helping those people who need early legal support and legal advice ..

Link: Hansard: 14 January 2020

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland re the proposed ‘Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission’:

No decisions have been made yet on the appointment of such a body, its scope or composition ... I would envisage the body taking evidence from third parties, outside organisations and civic society more generally to provide a thorough evidence base before any recommendations are made ...  I am already having a number of discussions with ministerial colleagues and thinking very deeply about the range of expertise and individuals that we need, and the diversity of that panel, so that we make sure that the commission is in the best possible place to gather evidence and come up with measured, sensible reforms.

Link: Hansard: 14 January 2020

 

shawn mach
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Latest minutes from the Civil Contracts Consultative Group are available:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contracts-consultative-groups

shawn mach
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The Legal Aid Agency has published the outcome of the recent tender to deliver CLA Specialist Telephone Advice Services in the Housing & Debt Categories of law from 1 May 2020 ..

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/specialist-telephone-advice-in-housing-debt-from-may-2020

shawn mach
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From the LAA:

New online application tool wins positive feedback during three months of trials for legal aid applications

A pilot group of providers are testing a new modern digital services platform designed to improve the efficiency of submitting legal aid applications.

The system will be used by both law firms and other providers of legal aid to process applications on behalf of clients. It will also be used by clients to progress their part of any legal aid application.

... It will ‘trail-blaze’ open banking and improve means testing by enabling clients to give us access to their bank statements online instead of on paper.

In future, we intend that the service will automatically access data from other government departments about an applicant’s income and remove the need for scanned payslips ...

More: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/civil-news-providers-praise-new-online-apply-tool

shawn mach
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New regs introducing some changes ......

- the removal of the mandatory requirement to contact the Civil Legal Aid Telephone Gateway for those seeking legal aid in discrimination, debt and special educational needs matters, reinstating immediate access to face-to-face advice in these cases;
- the introduction of a discretion for the Director of Legal Aid Casework to determine legal help funding, in relation to inquests, earlier than the date of determination; 
- the amendment of the evidence requirements that need to be satisfied in order to qualify for legal aid in proceedings where the applicant needs to prove that they are a victim of or at risk of being a victim of domestic abuse; and
- the removal of the mandatory requirement that an applicant for legal aid for Family Mediation must always attend the mediator’s premises in order to make their application for legal aid. 

Regs: Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020
Press release: Vulnerable groups set to benefit from improved legal aid support

 

 

 

shawn mach
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The Legal Aid Practitioners Group has written to justice minister Alex Chalk setting out the urgent action needed to stop legal aid providers from collapsing during the COVID-19 crisis

The Legal Aid Practitioners Group warns that without further action, many firms will fold over the next few months ‘and by Christmas there will not be a provider base left to underpin the justice system that this country needs and deserves as it tries to climb out of this crisis’.

Although the Legal Aid Agency has introduced some operational and financial measures to support firms during the pandemic, the group says they do not provide sufficient flexibility. Many wider relief measures are not open or relevant to legal aid practitioners.

The group says the lord chancellor, Robert Buckland MP, has wide discretionary powers under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act to ‘do anything which is calculated to facilitate, or is incidental or conducive to, the carrying out of the lord chancellor’s functions’ [including making] ‘grants or loans to enable persons to provide services or facilitate the provision of services’.

https://twitter.com/ChrisLAPG/status/1260882940537573377
https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/buckland-should-use-laspo-powers-to-save-firms/5104299.article

shawn mach
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From today, it’s no longer mandatory for people to use the telephone gateway to access education, discrimination and debt services:

Mandatory telephone gateway removed

It is no longer mandatory for people to use the telephone gateway to access services in the education, discrimination and debt categories of law. This requirement has been removed from legislation.

We began the phased removal of the gateway in September 2019 when new face-to-face contracts were introduced for education and discrimination work. However, clients still had to apply for legal aid via the gateway.

These further changes mean clients in all three categories of law will now have a choice of accessing advice directly from a face-to-face provider or by the telephone gateway.

More: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/civil-news-mandatory-telephone-gateway-phased-out

shawn mach
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New from the Legal Aid Practioners Group ...

... frequently asked questions submitted to its COVID-19 email support service (with answers):

https://lapg.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/LAPG-Covid-19-Support-Service-FAQs-25.05.20.pdf

NB - there’s more info on the service at: https://lapg.co.uk/lapg-launches-new-covid-19-support-service-for-legal-aid-providers

shawn mach
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Via Garden Court Chambers:

On 27 May 2020, Duncan Lewis Solicitors served a letter before action on the Lord Chancellor challenging the lawfulness of the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 on behalf of four of its clients ...

The Amendment Regulations were laid before parliament on 18 May 2020 and will come into force on 8 June 2020. They are designed to respond to the introduction of a new procedure at the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) which specifies that immigration and asylum appeals are to be decided by remote hearings where possible, and that Appellants must file and serve a detailed skeleton argument before the Tribunal decides whether a hearing is necessary, and if so, whether that hearing can be carried out remotely using video-link technology.

The Amendment Regulations amend the fee regime for legal aid providers operating under the new Online Tribunal Procedure, but do not adequately reflect the additional work solicitors and barristers must undertake to properly represent their clients. Without consultation, or any apparent evidence base, the amendment increases the likelihood that legal aid providers will be undercompensated for their work and places access to justice at risk ...

More: https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/news/duncan-lewis-solicitors-challenge-amendments-to-the-legal-aid-remuneration-regulations

shawn mach
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In the High Court today:

A victim of domestic violence, who is surviving on universal credit but has been denied legal aid in a battle to hold on to her home, is challenging strict regulations that could force her to cross-examine her former partner in court.

The woman, known as Claire (not her real name), has launched a judicial review of the refusal to provide funding made by the Legal Aid Agency. Without legal aid, she cannot pay for a lawyer and will have no option but to represent herself. Her challenge will be heard in the high court on Tuesday.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/jun/09/domestic-violence-legal-aid-judicial-review-cross-examine-partner-court

shawn mach
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New regs in Scotland:

To support legal aid providers, this instrument makes provisions that will be effective during the emergency period to facilitate cash-flow by way of interim payments, and to support adherence to guidance issued by the Scottish Government in connection with reduced travel and social distancing requirements, by facilitating delegation to duty solicitors.

Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020

shawn mach
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From the Law Society Gazette:

A consultation on changes to the legal aid means test will be delayed after the Ministry of Justice confirmed that it has paused its review.

The review was part of the ministry’s legal support action plan, published in February 2018 alongside the department’s post-implementation review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. Last October officials said the ministry was still on track to publish the review, which would include a consultation on any potential changes, this summer.

However, this week justice minister Alex Chalk confirmed that work has been ‘temporarily paused’ due to Covid-19 ‘and a revised timetable for delivery of the review will be announced shortly’.

More: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/moj-pauses-legal-aid-means-test-review/5104798.article