In this update:
- Civil contract tenders
- Experts in family and housing cases
- Criminal legal aid applications
- Criminal billing
- Notes of LSC meetings
Civil Contract tenders
The PQQs for both the face to face and the telephone tenders are now out. The face to face closure date is the 18th June and telephone is the 19th, both at noon. PQQs must be submitted via the LSC’s etender portal. In the last few tender rounds, some organisations have been refused contracts for delay in submission of documentation, or for submitting blank documents, or for answering “no” instead of “yes”. It is therefore wise to ensure that your answers are double- or triple-checked by someone other than the one who filled in the form, and if you have screen capture software keep a record showing that your form was complete on submission.
The face-to-face documentation has been amended once already, so do keep an eye on the relevant pages of the LSC website and watch for further amendments. These are the key pages:
- Legal aid reform
- The main tenders page
- The face to face tenders page
- The telephone tenders page
- The 2013 contracts page
We understand that the contract specification itself is now out for consultation with the Law Society, Bar Council and others and will presumably be published before the ITTs open in September.
Experts in family and housing cases
The new prescribed rates for experts continue to cause concern, particularly in family and in housing. See a statement issued by the Law Society. In a judgement handed down on Thursday, the President of the Family Division gave further guidance on the approach to be taken in family public law cases. Although directly concerned with those cases, it is also essential reading for those working in other areas of law as the legal principles behind the incurring of experts fees, and the problems the courts and practitioners face, are the same.
The Law Society stress the importance of making applications for prior authority when you can not find anyone willing to work within the rates. A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting at the MoJ about rates for surveyors in housing disrepair cases at which it was conceded that the rate set in the regulations was wrong, but the MoJ contended it was difficult to change it unless they knew what the correct rate should be. Prior authority applications are what give the LSC and MoJ the data showing not only that the rates are wrong but also what they should be.
Criminal legal aid applications
The LSC have attempted to simplify the process of applying for legal aid for defendants on passported benefits but who do not show up on DWP checks. The “Benefits Bypass” leaflet gives more details.
The LSC hold a number of meetings with members of the professions and representative bodies and while the minutes of meetings are not always posted promptly, or very detailed, it is worth keeping an eye on them, particularly as they can be the place where a change of approach rather than a change in law or a contract rule can be signalled.
Recently added are the notes from March’s Provider Reference Groups, recent Civil and Criminal Contract Consultative Groups, and the Contract Compliance Improvement Working Group (looking at LSC auditing).