Author Archives: Vicky

Civil contracts for 2018 – tender open

The Legal Aid Agency has opened the tender for civil, family and mediation contracts to start on 1 September 2018. If you want to do legal aid work after 31 August 2018, you must submit a bid by the closing date and time 10 November at 5pm. Details can be found here.

The contracts will run for three years with an option for the LAA to extend for two years. Existing contracts are being extended.

You need to bid using the LAA’s tendering portal here.

Apart from Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes (HPCDS) and the CLA telephone service, bids are not competitive. As long as you can demonstrate that you meet the LAA’s requirements, and submit a technically correct bid, you will get a contract. The details of the tenders for HPCDS and CLA contracts will be released soon.

Top tips for successful bids

  • Read the Information for Applicants carefully. The answers are almost always in there somewhere
  • Where they are not, submit a question through the message board on the portal – the LAA publishes all questions and answers received
  • Read the FAQs carefully and submit your bid after the final ones are published; but comfortably in advance of the tender closing date
  • Register your bids on the portal as early as you can and start completing the Selection Questionnaire (SQ) and the Invitation to Tender(s) (ITTs) you are interested in. You will know some of the answers straight away and can come back to the ones you need to go away and find information to complete
  • Allocate a small team to the bid – say two people to complete it and a third to check it
  • Make sure several people are registered to receive emails about the bid. Sometimes the LAA raises queries that need to be answered quickly. You don’t want to miss them

The Law Society is running tender workshops throughout England and Wales. They are recommended. Details here.

LAPG is also running workshops between 27 September – 3 October – details here – also recommended.

 

 

 

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HPCDS tender – LAA events start soon

Further to its announcement, which we covered on the blog yesterday, the LAA has provided further information about its market engagement events for those interested in finding out more and providing an opportunity to influence the way Courts are grouped together in the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme tenders.

This is important as these bids will include an element of price competition, so the more you understand the LAA’s ratioanle, the better. They start very soon:

  • Birmingham – 29 August
  • Manchester – 30 August
  • Leeds – 4 September
  • London – 5 and 7 September
  • Liverpool – 6 September
  • Bristol – 8 September

We hope all practitioners thinking of submitting bids will take up this opportunity. You can find out more information, including how to book, here.

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Timetable for 2018 civil/family contracts announced

The LAA announced its long-awaited timetable for civil/family contracts today. This is for face to face contracts and the CLA telephone service.

The tender process for new contracts will open in mid-September (exact date not specified) and remain open for 8 weeks, closing in November.

The LAA expects to notify successful bidders about face to face contracts in March 2018, and the CLA telephone service contracts in May 2018.

The start of the new contracts will not be 1 April 2018, as previously announced; but 1 September 2018 (but see more information on Housing Court Possession Duty Scheme (HPCDS) contracts below).

In the meantime, current contracts will be extended.

The LAA announced in its headline intentions document in January 2017, that contracts in the following areas of law would be awarded to organisations meeting its suitability tests and able to meet quality standards: 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; and Public Law.

The Ministry of Justice also published its response to the consultation on the tender process for HPCDS work. The Ministry remains convinced that larger procurement areas will result in the contracts being financially sustainable. It will also include an element of price competition in these bids. However, it intends to conduct a series of market engagement events to inform the eventual tender process in relation to scheme boundaries. We hope Housing practitioners will attend the events and provide the Ministry with feedback about their local areas.

You will need a housing/debt contract to obtain a HPCDS contract, so the tender will open in October and run for 6 weeks. The outcomes will be notified in June 2018. New HPCDS contracts will start on 1 October 2018.

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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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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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