Author Archives: Vicky

Civil/Family contracts for 2018 tender postponed

The Legal Aid Agency has announced today that it has had to postpone the civil and family contracts tender, expected to open in May, until after the election.

No new date has been set and the Agency will issue more information when it is able to do so.

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Legal Aid Agency changes start date for civil and family tender

On the 20th of January, the LAA announced that it intended to run a two-stage tender process for civil and family contracts to start in April 2018 and that stage 1 would probably start in April 2017, with stage 2 in August 2017. In February they announced that a family mediation tender would open at the same time.

On Friday 17 March, they announced that instead they would be running both the selection criteria and invitation to tender stages together in May 2017.

Practitioners will need to remain vigilant and watch out for further LAA announcements. They can be found here.

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Civil and family tender timetable announced

The LAA has announced that the tender process for civil and family legal aid contracts to take effect in April 2018 will actually start this April, 2017. They will announce their intentions for family mediation contracts in due course. The announcement can be found here.

The agency has reverted to a two-stage process. Stage 1, a selection questionnaire (previously known as a pre-qualification questionnaire – PQQ), followed by an invitation to tender (ITT) in Ausgust 2017 for the following categories:

  • Family
  • Housing, debt and welfare benefits
  • Immigration/asylum (including IRCs)
  • Claims against public authorities (currently known as Actions against the police etc)
  • Community Care
  • Clinical Negligence
  • Mental Health
  • Public Law

The LAA stresses that the tender in relation to the above will simply test organisations’ ability to meet minimum tender requirements and all organisations which can do so will be awarded contracts. However, organisations seeking higher numbers of matter starts may need advanced panel accreditation. Family practitioners will be able to apply for licensed work only contracts if they wish.

Timetable

  • SQ opens – April 2017
  • Notification of SQ outcome – June 2017
  • ITTs open (except HPCDS) – August 2017
  • Notification of ITT outcome – December 2017
  • Verifiation process – January – March 2018
  • Contract starts – 1 April 2018

Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes

Those interested in Housing Court Possession Duty Schemes are warned that the government is currently consulting on whether to increase the size of the schemes, so that some could cover a number of courts. They are also considering an element of price competition in relation to HPCDS work. At first sight, it is difficult to see how economies of scale could result by simply grouping courts together as proposed. The consultation opened on Friday 20 January and will close on 17 March 2017. You can download the consultation paper and respond here.

  • Notification of Housing, Debt and Welfare Benefits contracts will be prior to the HPCDS ITT opening – in October 2017
  • HPCDS ITT opens – October 2017
  • HPCDS ITT outcome – January 2018

More flexibility

The LAA says that the new contracts are likely to be more flexible in a number of ways which practitioners may find helpful:

  • Allowing remote working arrangements such as delivery of advice by email, telephone or video conferencing where appropriate
  • Ability to self grant up to an additional 50% of matter starts over those awarded
  • Ability to reallocate up to 50% of matter starts between your own offices (subject to LAA consent)
  • All organisations will receive 5 miscellaneous matter starts in addition to their category matter starts

Likely changes you may need to plan for

  • Stricter definition of ’employ’ in relation to supervisors
  • Changes to the mental health supervisor standard
  • Limits to representation by counsel/agents in mental health
  • New mental health capacity (welfare) accreditation will become mandatory for that work when appropriate
  • The immigration/asylum contract will reflect changes to the IAAS scheme
  • Immigration/asylum bidders in higher lot sizes will also be able to bid for IRC work

Telephone contracts

The LAA will also be tendering for specialist telephone work, including an element of price competition in the following areas of law:

  • Family
  • Housing and debt
  • Discrimination
  • Special educational needs

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare, Uncategorized

Immigration/asylum and mental health peer review guides available

The LAA continues to use peer review, conducted by independent lawyers under the auspices of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, as its measure of legal quality. A new cohort of peer reviewers has been recruited and the LAA has gradually been releasing ‘Improving Your Quality’ guides to help practitioners, which are available on its website.

There are five possible ratings;

  1. Excellence
  2. Competence plus
  3. Threshold competence
  4. Below competence
  5. Failure in performance

Face to face contracts require practices to achieve at least threshold competence.

Crime, Family and Housing guides have been available for some time. Immigration/asylum and mental health guides have been added more recently. This initiative is to be welcomed but it is a shame the guides themselves are not of a consistent standard. At only 14 pages the immigration/asylum guide has little specific detail.  Guides to the other areas of law range from 38 pages (mental health) to 76 pages (family). Whilst the content of the immigration/asylum guide is useful as far as it goes, it is a shame that it lacks the depth that makes some of the others more helpful.

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LAPG Certificate in Practice Management – register for January start

The LAPG CPM provides 60 hours of management training and is a great opportunity to develop management skills for legal aid practitioners, whether experienced or new to a management role.

In 2015, Legal Aid Practitioners Group got funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to work with legal aid practitioners to design training and development that would meet their particular needs.  They now have a tried and tested programme, based on the SQM, Lexcel, legal aid contract compliance and incorporating a wide range of good practice. It is suitable for both solicitors firms in private practice and NfP agencies with legal aid contracts.

Session 1 Financial Management – 13 January 2017 Understanding the financial implications of running a legal aid practice, understanding accounts, setting budgets, cash flow and forecasting.

Session 2 – Business Planning and Risk Management – 24 February 2017 Also includes gathering management information and using dashboards to review performance and track key metrics.

Session 3 – Legal Aid Contracts, Marketing and developing your profile – 24 March 2017 Senior managers from the LAA will help you understand the contract from the LAA’s perspective. Marketing expert, Jo Edwards, will show you how you can raise awareness of your practice, projects and services, with a particular emphasis on online and social media.

Session 4 – Managing people – 21 April 2017 Matt Howgate and Vicky Ling will help you work through the challenges of managing staff, including setting targets, supervision, bullying and inappropriate behaviour and equality and diversity.

NFP session – TBA 2017 Fundraising and income generation.

Cost – £1400 for LAPG members – £1600 – non-members Includes all sessions, handouts on all topics covered, ‘grab and go’ guides, textbooks on finance (by Andrew Otterburn) and best management practice for professionals (by Fiona Westwood), lunches and refreshments throughout.

Contact Chris Minnoch chris.minnoch@lapg.co.uk

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LAPG Certificate in Practice Management

Most managers in legal aid organisations are ‘accidental managers’. They are good at their job, which might be as a lawyer, finance person or administrator, and  get promoted; but often they don’t actually get trained as managers.

In 2015, Legal Aid Practitioners Group got funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to work with legal aid practitioners to design training and development that would meet their particular needs.  They now have a tried and tested programme, based on the SQM, Lexcel, legal aid contract compliance and incorporating a wide range of good practice. It is suitable for both solicitors firms in private practice and NfP agencies with legal aid contracts.

It offers 60 hours of learning and development, mainly during face to face sessions but also putting what you have learned into practice in your workplace and online learning. The next programme starts in November:

Session 1 Financial Management – 18 November 2016 Understanding the financial implications of running a legal aid practice, understanding accounts, setting budgets, cash flow and forecasting.

Session 2 – Business Planning and Risk Management – 13 January 2017 Also includes gathering management information and using dashboards to review performance and track key metrics.

Session 3 – Legal Aid Contracts, Marketing and developing your profile – 24 February 2017 Senior managers from the LAA will help you understand the contract from the LAA’s perspective. Marketing expert, Jo Edwards, will show you how you can raise awareness of your practice, projects and services, with a particular emphasis on online and social media.

Session 4 – Managing people – 24 March 2017 Matt Howgate and Vicky Ling will help you work through the challenges of managing staff, including setting targets, supervision, bullying and inappropriate behaviour and equality and diversity.

NFP session – 21 April 2017 Fundraising and income generation.

Cost – £1400 for LAPG members – £1600 – non-members Includes all sessions, handouts on all topics covered, ‘grab and go’ guides, textbooks on finance (by Andrew Otterburn) and best management practice for professionals (by Fiona Westwood), lunches and refreshments throughout.

Contact Chris Minnoch chris.minnoch@lapg.co.uk

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Mediation contracts – take action

The Family Mediation Contract is due to expire on 31 October 2016. You should have received a letter from the LAA (sent on 14 July 2016) offering you an extension to 31 March 2018.

The deadline for returning the offer acceptance form is 23.59 on 4 August 2016. The LAA says that if you do not accept the offer in time, your contract will expire on 31 October 2016 and you will not be entitled to payment for work carried out after that date.

As the summer holidays are upon us, it is possible that the person who would normally deal with the LAA contract is away. It is important that action is taken within the deadline.

More information can be found here.

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