Changes to the scheme
On the legal aid reform page of their website, they have published a list of areas of law going out of scope. As well as the scope elements of the implementation of the Act, the list confirms:
- The telephone gateway will go ahead in debt, discrimination and special educational needs
- Changes to eligibility – abolishing capital passporting, increasing contributions and extending the subject matter of dispute cap to Legal Help – will be implemented
- Exceptional funding arrangements for out of scope cases will be introduced
- A Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme will be implemented, requiring legally aided clients to pay 25% of any damages awarded into the legal aid fund (even if there is ultimately no claim on the fund)
- The merits test will be tightened to exclude funding in any case suitable for a CFA or other alternative funding
Tenders for new contracts
The LSC have also published an outline of the proposed tender process.
There will be tenders for face to face contracts in asylum, family, and housing with debt. All other categories will either be terminated (if going out of scope) or extended (if not), with the exception of education (see below). Despite indicating in February’s “headline intentions” paper that housing court duty schemes would also be tendered for, it now appears that existing contracts will be extended. All that will be tendered for are 35 new schemes created by transferring funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government to the Ministry of Justice. There will also be a tender for family mediation contracts.
As we predicted a few weeks ago, there will be a two stage tender process, with a PQQ opening on 21st May and an ITT stage in September.
New entrants should note that it is a requirement to have either Lexcel or the SQM by the start of new contracts in April 2013. This is a different approach to previous tenders, which allowed six months grace to obtain them, and potentially penalises genuinely new organisations (as opposed to existing ones expanding into new categories) who will struggle to achieve accreditation before they are operational.
Here is the timetable in full:
- PQQ opens: 21 May
- PQQ closes: 18 June
- Notification of outcome of PQQ: Late July
- ITT opens for 4 weeks (only successful organisations at the PQQ will be invited to participate): Mid September
- ITT closes: Mid October
- Notification of outcome of ITT: January ‘13
- New contracts start: 1 April ‘13
Mediation will be dealt with slightly differently; as there are no caps on mediation work, all organisations that meet the MQM and the minimum requirements will be awarded a contract. To give new entrants time to achieve the MQM, there will be two ITTs, in October and January.
Matter starts will be retained, and as face to face contracts are not being awarded on a competitive basis, matters will be allocated on a pro rata “lot” basis. We advise organisations intending to tender to study last year’s family ITT for indications as to how the process will work.
There will also be tenders for telephone contracts in the three mandatory gateway areas (SEN and discrimination will be joint telephone and face to face tenders, so there will be no opportunity to bid just for face to face contracts in those categories) plus housing / debt and family. The LSC intend to award only three contracts per area of law nationally (five in housing / debt) with no geographical restrictions. There will be a price competitive element to the tender process, and the process will happen a bit quicker than for face to face to allow successful bidders time to put the infrastructure in place.
Changes to the LSC
The LSC will be abolished and become the Legal Aid Agency on 1st April 2013.