Civil and family tender timetable announced

The LAA has announced that the tender process for civil and family legal aid contracts to take effect in April 2018 will actually start this April, 2017. They will announce their intentions for family mediation contracts in due course. The announcement can be found here.

The agency has reverted to a two-stage process. Stage 1, a selection questionnaire (previously known as a pre-qualification questionnaire – PQQ), followed by an invitation to tender (ITT) in Ausgust 2017 for the following categories:

  • Family
  • Housing, debt and welfare benefits
  • Immigration/asylum (including IRCs)
  • Claims against public authorities (currently known as Actions against the police etc)
  • Community Care
  • Clinical Negligence
  • Mental Health
  • Public Law

The LAA stresses that the tender in relation to the above will simply test organisations’ ability to meet minimum tender requirements and all organisations which can do so will be awarded contracts. However, organisations seeking higher numbers of matter starts may need advanced panel accreditation. Family practitioners will be able to apply for licensed work only contracts if they wish.

Timetable

  • SQ opens – April 2017
  • Notification of SQ outcome – June 2017
  • ITTs open (except HPCDS) – August 2017
  • Notification of ITT outcome – December 2017
  • Verifiation process – January – March 2018
  • Contract starts – 1 April 2018

Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes

Those interested in Housing Court Possession Duty Schemes are warned that the government is currently consulting on whether to increase the size of the schemes, so that some could cover a number of courts. They are also considering an element of price competition in relation to HPCDS work. At first sight, it is difficult to see how economies of scale could result by simply grouping courts together as proposed. The consultation opened on Friday 20 January and will close on 17 March 2017. You can download the consultation paper and respond here.

  • Notification of Housing, Debt and Welfare Benefits contracts will be prior to the HPCDS ITT opening – in October 2017
  • HPCDS ITT opens – October 2017
  • HPCDS ITT outcome – January 2018

More flexibility

The LAA says that the new contracts are likely to be more flexible in a number of ways which practitioners may find helpful:

  • Allowing remote working arrangements such as delivery of advice by email, telephone or video conferencing where appropriate
  • Ability to self grant up to an additional 50% of matter starts over those awarded
  • Ability to reallocate up to 50% of matter starts between your own offices (subject to LAA consent)
  • All organisations will receive 5 miscellaneous matter starts in addition to their category matter starts

Likely changes you may need to plan for

  • Stricter definition of ’employ’ in relation to supervisors
  • Changes to the mental health supervisor standard
  • Limits to representation by counsel/agents in mental health
  • New mental health capacity (welfare) accreditation will become mandatory for that work when appropriate
  • The immigration/asylum contract will reflect changes to the IAAS scheme
  • Immigration/asylum bidders in higher lot sizes will also be able to bid for IRC work

Telephone contracts

The LAA will also be tendering for specialist telephone work, including an element of price competition in the following areas of law:

  • Family
  • Housing and debt
  • Discrimination
  • Special educational needs

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare, Uncategorized

New process for CCMS contingency applications

The LAA has changed its process for so-called “contingency” applications – that is, those that have to be made via paper because CCMS is down and the application is so urgent that it can’t wait until CCMS is available again.

If you have an urgent case and you can’t access CCMS – and you can’t exercise your delegated functions – you will need to contact the online technical support team. You’ll need to provide evidence (generally, screenshots) showing that you’ve tried to access CCMS at least twice and not been able to over a period of at least 24 hours.

The online support team will consider the circumstances – including both the state of CCMS and the nature of your application. If they agree you can use the contingency process, you will be emailed a cover sheet so that you can email a paper application. You will also be issued a contingency reference number which must be quoted in the application. The contingency reference number is your permission to use this process; if the online support team refuse to issue you one, any paper application will not be considered.

The LAA’s guidance note on the new process can be found here.

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

Immigration/asylum and mental health peer review guides available

The LAA continues to use peer review, conducted by independent lawyers under the auspices of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, as its measure of legal quality. A new cohort of peer reviewers has been recruited and the LAA has gradually been releasing ‘Improving Your Quality’ guides to help practitioners, which are available on its website.

There are five possible ratings;

  1. Excellence
  2. Competence plus
  3. Threshold competence
  4. Below competence
  5. Failure in performance

Face to face contracts require practices to achieve at least threshold competence.

Crime, Family and Housing guides have been available for some time. Immigration/asylum and mental health guides have been added more recently. This initiative is to be welcomed but it is a shame the guides themselves are not of a consistent standard. At only 14 pages the immigration/asylum guide has little specific detail.  Guides to the other areas of law range from 38 pages (mental health) to 76 pages (family). Whilst the content of the immigration/asylum guide is useful as far as it goes, it is a shame that it lacks the depth that makes some of the others more helpful.

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MoJ consults on changes to AGFS

The MoJ has launched a consultation on changes to advocacy fees for Crown Court work. The changes are designed to be cost neutral across the budget as a whole, but both shift payments around between case types  and break down the single case fees into fees based on stages of the case. The paper proposes a return to individual fees for individual hearings. It also, in most cases, moves away from using pages of prosecution evidence (PPE) as a proxy for case complexity, relying more on the nature and classification of the offence; there are more classes proposed than currently.

The proposals have been welcomed by the Bar Council, but criticised by the Law Society as effectively removing money from junior practitioners to increase pay for more senior ones.

Criminal practitioners will want to consider the proposals carefully, especially the potential impacts on their own practice. The consultation closes on 2 March.

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LAA invites applications for modern slavery and trafficking work

The LAA has issued an invitation to express interest in the delivery of services under paras 32 (2) and (3)  and 32A (2) and (3) of Schedule 1 of LASPO. These are employment law claims or other damages claims by victims of trafficking or of modern slavery arising out of the trafficking or slavery.

These cases are in the miscellaneous category, and therefore existing providers will have limited ability to offer Legal Help work. The LAA is offering an additional 10 matter starts to successful applicants, which must be used for this work, and with a facility to apply for more if needed. The invitation is open to all current holders of civil contracts, who will therefore have a licence to carry out certificated work arising out of any Legal Help cases taken.

The response form can be found here, and must be returned by noon on 12 January 2017.

 

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LAPG Certificate in Practice Management – register for January start

The LAPG CPM provides 60 hours of management training and is a great opportunity to develop management skills for legal aid practitioners, whether experienced or new to a management role.

In 2015, Legal Aid Practitioners Group got funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to work with legal aid practitioners to design training and development that would meet their particular needs.  They now have a tried and tested programme, based on the SQM, Lexcel, legal aid contract compliance and incorporating a wide range of good practice. It is suitable for both solicitors firms in private practice and NfP agencies with legal aid contracts.

Session 1 Financial Management – 13 January 2017 Understanding the financial implications of running a legal aid practice, understanding accounts, setting budgets, cash flow and forecasting.

Session 2 – Business Planning and Risk Management – 24 February 2017 Also includes gathering management information and using dashboards to review performance and track key metrics.

Session 3 – Legal Aid Contracts, Marketing and developing your profile – 24 March 2017 Senior managers from the LAA will help you understand the contract from the LAA’s perspective. Marketing expert, Jo Edwards, will show you how you can raise awareness of your practice, projects and services, with a particular emphasis on online and social media.

Session 4 – Managing people – 21 April 2017 Matt Howgate and Vicky Ling will help you work through the challenges of managing staff, including setting targets, supervision, bullying and inappropriate behaviour and equality and diversity.

NFP session – TBA 2017 Fundraising and income generation.

Cost – £1400 for LAPG members – £1600 – non-members Includes all sessions, handouts on all topics covered, ‘grab and go’ guides, textbooks on finance (by Andrew Otterburn) and best management practice for professionals (by Fiona Westwood), lunches and refreshments throughout.

Contact Chris Minnoch chris.minnoch@lapg.co.uk

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New single contact point for exceptional, high cost and immigration cases

The LAA has announced that it will use a single email address as a contact point for immigration applications, high cost civil applications and for exceptional caeses. The new address takes effect from 1 November and the old ones will stop working from 11 November.

It says:

The email address is:

contactECC@legalaid.gsi.gov.uk

In order to direct your email to the correct team you need to provide specific information in the email subject line. This should include:

  • key words (stated below in bullet points)
  • application / claim form number (if appropriate)
  • client reference number

The key word will change according to where the case sits within the ECC team.

Exceptional Case Funding application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing ECF case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following ‘subject’ titles:

  • ECF
  • Exceptional case funding
  • Direct applicant
  • Inquest

High Cost Civil application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing HCC case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following subject titles:

  • High Cost Civil
  • HCC
  • Case plans
  • QC
  • Events

Immigration application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing immigration case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following subject titles:

  • Immigration
  • Asylum
  • SIAC
  • Special Immigration Appeals Commission

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