This afternoon, the Ministry of Justice released a written ministerial statement on the future of legal aid for welfare benefits cases.
You may remember that towards the end of the progress of the legal aid bill, the government lost a vote in the Lords and announced a concession – retaining legal aid for appeals to the Upper Tribunal and onwards, and retaining legal aid for points of law in the First Tier Tribunal.
Today they have announced how that will be given effect to. First Tier Tribunal cases will be in scope where the Tribunal agrees to review its own decision because of an error of law, as will appeals to the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
This means that there will be a tender for welfare benefits legal aid. However, it is now too late to include it in the current face to face tender. Instead, there will be a PQQ in February 2013, with a view to contracts starting in October 2013. As yet unannounced interim arrangements will apply in the period from April to October 2013. It is anticipated that the number of cases in scope will be small and therefore the tender is unlikely to be for large amounts of matters; certainly nothing like the volumes currently delivered by social welfare law providers.
See also the concurrent announcement on the LSC website.