Welfare benefits: scope narrows again

This week the LSC announced a tender for new contracts for welfare benefits work, starting from October. If you plan to tender, the PQQ opens in a week’s time. But what is there to tender for? There will be four contracts, with a competitive element based on price. The tender outline information says that licensed work hourly rates will apply, and the competition will be for the amount of the Legal Help fixed fee. In the CLA tender last year, bidders in housing debt and family had to specify a maximum fee per case, with no escape or exceptionality, and a hourly rate that sat behind it.  60% of the scoring was on price (10%  for the hourly rate, 50% for the maximum fee) and only 40% for quality. We will know more on the criteria for this tender when it opens.

What we do know now is the very limited scope of the work. During the final stages of LASPO in the House of Commons, Ken Clarke undertook to amend the Act to allow for appeals to the First Tier Tribunal to be in scope where there was a point of law. The regulations brought forward to do this were so restrictive that the House of Lords voted them down and told the government to think again. But rather than honour the original promise, the government withdrew the concession entirely, and now no First Tier Tribunals will be in scope. All that remains are appeals to the Upper Tribunal and onwards to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. This week, the government published new regulations tightening scope further; the regulations make clear that the case before the Upper Tribunal is in scope, but the application for permission to appeal to the First Tier Tribunal is not. Previously, it was at least arguable that the wording of LASPO included the permission application as well as the appeal; now, it is not.

 

For more on the new legal aid scheme, see our LASPO Resources page, follow us on Twitter @legalaidhbk or pre-order the new Handbook by emailing direct.orders@marston.co.uk

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Filed under Civil, LASPO, Social welfare

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