The LAA has announced that it is terminating the tender for CLA telephone contracts in the education and discrimination categories because “insufficient compliant tenders” were received, meaning there would not be enough successful bidders to run the service.
As there are currently only a very small number of contract holders, this suggests that there were no or very few bidders prepared or able to deliver the new contracts due to start later this year.
Education and discrimination are gateway exclusive categories – all cases must go through the telephone service and there are no separate face to face providers – all face to face services are carried out by the telephone contract providers, if they deem it necessary.
It is not clear what the future of education and discrimination services will be. The LAA says it will discuss next steps with affected organisations.
But if there are currently no providers willing to bid, or no providers able to demonstrate they can provide services of sufficient quality at an acceptable price, it is hard to see how that will change between now and October, when the new contracts were due to start.
The MoJ decided in 2012 to move education and discrimination services to the gateway with a small number of contracts. At the time many warned that there were significant risks with this approach. Numbers using the service have been lower than expected throughout. And there was concern that such a reduction in the provider base meant that there was no slack if contract holders pulled out or were unable to continue. It appears that fear has also been realised. Hopefully there is enough time for the MoJ and LAA to rethink before education and discrimination legal aid disappears altogether.