Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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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

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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New single contact point for exceptional, high cost and immigration cases

The LAA has announced that it will use a single email address as a contact point for immigration applications, high cost civil applications and for exceptional caeses. The new address takes effect from 1 November and the old ones will stop working from 11 November.

It says:

The email address is:

contactECC@legalaid.gsi.gov.uk

In order to direct your email to the correct team you need to provide specific information in the email subject line. This should include:

  • key words (stated below in bullet points)
  • application / claim form number (if appropriate)
  • client reference number

The key word will change according to where the case sits within the ECC team.

Exceptional Case Funding application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing ECF case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following ‘subject’ titles:

  • ECF
  • Exceptional case funding
  • Direct applicant
  • Inquest

High Cost Civil application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing HCC case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following subject titles:

  • High Cost Civil
  • HCC
  • Case plans
  • QC
  • Events

Immigration application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing immigration case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following subject titles:

  • Immigration
  • Asylum
  • SIAC
  • Special Immigration Appeals Commission

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LAA clarifies potential use of embarrassment clause

The 2017 crime contract contains a controversial clause in the standard terms. Clause 2.2 says:

You shall ensure that neither you nor any of your Affiliates embarrasses us or otherwise brings us into disrepute by engaging in any act or omission which is reasonably likely to diminish the trust that the public places in us, regardless of whether or not such act or omission is related to your obligations under this Contract. Any operation of this Clause is subject to our obligation to act as a responsible public body and any sanction must be proportionate.

Practitioner groups and others were concerned at the chilling effect of the clause and its potential to deter legitimate criticism of the LAA given that breach may lead to contract termination. Acting for Tuckers and Ben Hoare Bell, the Public Law Project sent a letter before action threatening judicial review. PLP has announced that the LAA has responded, saying it is

prepared to consider revising Clause 2.2 and/or making a statement to provide greater clarity for legal aid providers regarding the ambit of the clause, including but not limited to the fact that as a public body the Legal Aid Agency would not seek to rely on the clause to stifle criticism of, or challenges to, the Legal Aid Agency, the Lord Chancellor, or wider government.

You can see the letter before action here and the reply here.

 

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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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Supreme Court judgment in residence test case

The Supreme Court has issued its judgment in the residence test. As we reported at the time of the hearing, the Court took the very unusual step of upholding the appeal partway through the case. It’s now given its reasons.

In The Public Law Project, R (on the application of) v Lord Chancellor [2016] UKSC 39, Lord Neuburger gave the only judgment, the other six justices agreeing. He only dealt with the first ground of appeal – ultra vires – it being agreed that, as the case won on that ground alone it wasn’t necessary to deal with the other ground (discrimination).

Lord Neuburger held that LASPO defines what civil legal aid services are to be made available by reference to the issue of law, the nature of the services and the need and ability to pay of the individual requiring the services. There is nothing in the Act that excludes groups of people on the grounds of personal circumstances or personal characteristics beyond that – such as resident status – and nothing in the Act that enables such an exclusion to be brought in using the powers given to make secondary legislation. He also noted the strong presumption in statutory interpretation that every Act applies not just to persons belonging to the territory affected by the Act, but also to “foreigners…within its territory”.

We’ve remarked before on the varying interpretations of the statutory purpose of LASPO. Lord Neuburger addressed that as well; “the purpose of Part 1 of LASPO was, in very summary terms, to channel civil legal aid on the basis of the nature and importance of the issue, an individual’s need for financial support, the availability of other funding, and the availability of other forms of dispute resolution. The exclusion of individuals from the scope of most areas of civil legal aid on the ground that they do not satisfy the residence requirements of the proposed order involves a wholly different sort of criterion from those embodied in LASPO and articulated in the 2011 paper.” This is a helpful formulation, putting the emphasis back on targeting need rather than reducing costs.

However, although it’s now clear that the residence test can’t be brought in by statutory instrument, it still could be done by primary legislation. The previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, made clear he supported that – though no legislative plans had been announced. It remains to be seen whether Theresa May – and whoever she appoints as Lord Chancellor – agrees.

 

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