Family tenders announced

The LSC have announced the approach they intend to take to the tendering of family and family with housing contracts. The Unified Contract was extended last year and now expires in November. The LSC are proposing to extend the contract further to February 2012 (as we predicted two weeks ago) and run a tender process over the summer. It will be a non-competitive tender, which means that any firm that meets the minimum standard will be awarded a contract. However, it may not be awarded all the matters it has bid for – matters will be awarded on a “lots” basis. This means that firms will bid for one of 3 lots – for up to 50 matters, up to 150 and over 150. There is no minimum family contract size. Where there is more demand than supply, those bidding for up to 50 or 150 will be guaranteed the amount they have bid for and those bidding for over 150 will be guaranteed 150 and receive a pro rata share of what is left above that.

Those bidding for housing matters will be required to bid for at least 25, and in the event of demand exceeding supply successful bidders will receive a pro rata share of what is available.

The full consultation paper is here and firms should read it carefully.

Tenders are scheduled to open in September, with decisions announced in November. Firms intending to bid should start preparation now, since there a number of issues that they must have addressed before bidding opens:

  • Quality:
    • Existing Lexcel holders will be passported;
    • Existing providers that hold the SQM but not Lexcel will be required to have passed a post SQM audit carried out by the SQM Delivery Partnership within 6 months of contract start (i.e. by August 2012). Such firms are advised to start the process of applying to the SQM Delivery Partnership for an audit now, as there is likely to be demand not just from family firms but potentially all organisations if there are tenders for civil and crime next year;
    • New entrants must register with the SQM Delivery Partnership before submitting a tender, pass a desktop audit by November 2011, pass the pre SQM audit by August 2012 and the post SQM audit by February 2013.

Full details of the audit process can be found in the Handbook.

  • Supervision
    • Supervisor ratios will be reduced from a minimum of 1:6 to either 1:3 or 1:4, assessed per office. Firms with a higher ratio will therefore need to recruit additional supervisors.
  • Panel membership
    • Panel membership – other than as a pre-requisite for supervisor status – will not be a criterion in this tender, though it may be in the future.
These proposals are a consultation at the moment. The consultation is with representative bodies only, and practitioners and firms should therefore feed back to representative bodies rather than the LSC. However, they are a good indication of what is the likely process, and firms should start to prepare now rather than await the outcome of the consultation.

3 Comments

Filed under Civil, Family

3 responses to “Family tenders announced

  1. Pingback: Legal aid reform (1): overview | Legal Aid Handbook

  2. Pingback: Latest LSC announcements | Legal Aid Handbook

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