Category Archives: Uncategorized

LAPG COVID-19 update, 16 April 2020

LAPG have again kindly given us permission to post the update sent out to their members on 16 April 2020.

If you are not currently a member of LAPG, but would like to be, you can download a form from their website and receive all their updates direct to your inbox.

LAPG Update 14 of 2020

  1. LAPG’s COVID-19 support service
  2. LALY nomination deadline tomorrow – 17 April 2020
  3. Latest LAA guidance for providers – 14 April 2020
  4. LAPG next Supervision Course – now online 15 + 22 May 2020
  5. Legal Aid Handbook – special offer for LAPG members
  6. Sir Andrew McFarlane calls for feedback on remote hearings
  7. Ministry of Justice – COVID-19 Stakeholder Update – 14 + 15 April 2020


1. Latest LAA guidance for providers – 14 April 2020

The Legal Aid Agency issued a number of updates on 14 April 2020, which summarise previous guidance, broken down by theme.

Processing and payments

Contract management and assurance

Remote working

Working with clients

LAA contingency response

There are still a large number of practical, contractual and regulatory issues to resolve and, along with other representative bodies, we are continuing to engage with the LAA, MOJ and HMCTS.  Members are also consistently reporting that the financial relief measures currently in place will not be sufficient to see them through this crisis.  We are therefore continuing to press the MOJ and LAA for more significant forms of support, and we are developing specific proposals which we will publish here soon.

2. LALY deadline tomorrow – 17 April 2020

Don’t forget that tomorrow is deadline day for submitting your nominations for the 2020 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards.  We know this is an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved in the delivery of legal aid, which reinforces why it is just so important that we recognise and celebrate the amazing contribution of legal aid lawyers.

Recognising the difficulties you have faced in recent weeks we extended the deadline from 3 to 17 April. We are also inviting you to submit briefer nominations in order to minimise the time needed to be spent producing them. Equally, we will still be happy to accept longer nominations in the usual way, up to our specified 20-page limit.

Our key message to you is: if you know a really exceptional individual, team or organisation that should be recognised this year, send us what details you realistically can and Team LALY will do the rest. Where more information is needed in order for our LALY20 judges to make a decision about an entry, we will follow up to make sure they have it.

Please continue to submit all nominations via:

3. LAPG’s COVID-19 support service

We have received a range of queries on COVID-19 related issues.  If you are unclear about how any of the new LAA measures relate to your organisation, or have other business continuity or LAA contract compliance issues linked to COVID-19, please get in touch.  We will shortly publish a summary of the queries we have received in the form of a FAQ document.

The service provides advice via email with responses from the LAPG team and expert input from sector consultants such as Vicky Ling, Paul Seddon and Matthew Howgate.  The email address is:

You can read more about the service on our website here

4. LAPG’s next Supervision Course – now online 15 + 22 May 2020

We have now put the necessary arrangements in place to take this course into the ether and deliver it online. The content and learning objectives remain the same but we have had to make some practical changes to suit online delivery.  One of which is that we don’t think we can ask delegates to sit in front of their screens for a full day.  We have therefore decided to break the content down into 4 sections, to be delivered as follows:

  • 15 May – 10.00-12.00 & 14.00-16.00
  • 22 May – 10.00-12.00 & 14.00-16.00

Each session is 2 hours to allow plenty of time for questions, case studies and interaction with the trainers, Matthew Howgate and Vicky Ling.

This course meets the LAA’s requirements for an ‘approved training course’ under the Generic Supervisor Requirements, section 2(ii) of the supervisor self-declaration forms.  This is particularly important for new supervisors, those who haven’t directly supervised for a number of years, those who just want to update their skills and keep abreast of developments in the law.  The course is also a useful refresher for the requirements of the 2018 Standard Civil and 2017 Crime Contracts.

This is an ideal opportunity to discuss with colleagues and sector experts the particular challenges of providing remote supervision and supporting your team in these unusual times.

Book your place for the May 2020 course here

5. Legal Aid Handbook – special offer for LAPG members

Our lovely friends at Legal Action Group are offering all LAPG members a 10% discount on the new 2020/21 Legal Aid Handbook.  This offer comes with a free e-book.

The Handbook is the only comprehensive guide to the legal aid scheme and covers the legal framework of the scheme, with a full discussion of civil, crime and family legal aid.

To redeem the discount offer visit LAG’s website here and use the code LAHBK10 by 30 June 2020.

6. Sir Andrew McFarlane calls for feedback on remote hearings

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, has opened a two-week ‘rapid’ consultation which is being carried out by the Nuffield Foundation Family Justice Observatory.  The consultation seeks feedback from those involved in remote hearings during the coronavirus outbreak in order to issue evidence-based guidance next month.

Evidence is sought from solicitors, barristers, Cafcass workers, court staff, social workers and magistrates on public and private Children Act cases. The FJO will also meet to discuss issues over the next fortnight, and draw together findings from existing relevant research.

Please provide your thoughts and feedback by Tuesday 28 April 2020.

7. Ministry of Justice – COVID-19 Stakeholder Updates – 14 + 15 April 2020

The Ministry of Magic publishes a range of updates each day, which we have summarised below from the last couple of days.


Latest information and guidance can be found here:

As of 17:00 on TUESDAY 14 APRIL:

  • 218 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 across 57 prisons;
  • 82 prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19 across 35 prisons;
  • 6 Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (PECS) staff have tested positive for COVID-19


New: HMCTS figures on the use of audio and video

HMCTS have published the first set of figures on audio and video hearings, following their increased use in response to COVID-19. These figures, reported by individual courts and tribunals, will provide a weekly summary of the number of hearings that have taken place using audio and video technology in HMCTS since 19 March 2020:

Latest information and guidance can be found here:

HMCTS maintain a daily operational summary service on courts and tribunals from Monday to Friday during the Coronavirus outbreak. HMCTS aim to update this page daily by 9am:


NEW: Guidance for NHS and social care staff to check if a COVID-19 patient has an attorney or deputy.

This page contains guidance on the information the Office of the Public Guardian has on its registers and how NHS staff and local authorities in England and Wales can request details for people who have lost mental capacity:

Victim and witness support services:

Further information is available at:

Latest general guidance

The new Business Support campaign for Covid-19:

Guidance on protecting vulnerable people from Covid-19:

Home isolation / ‘stay at home’ guidance:

Guidance on social distancing:

Please continue to refer to GOV.UK/coronavirus for the latest information on the situation in the UK and the Government’s response. For information about the illness and symptoms visit

16 April 2020
Chris Minnoch, CEO
Kate Pasfield, Director of Strategy
Rohini Teather, Head of Parliamentary Affairs

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The Law Society Future of Law lecture: the future of justice and the justice system

Carol Storer reports back on the inaugural lecture of The Law Society’s 2019 thought leadership seminars with Lucy Frazer QC MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice

Christina Blacklaws, President of The Law Society, introduced the first lecture of this year’s series of thought leadership seminars and welcomed Lucy Frazer QC MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Christina referred to the government post-implementation review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) which came out earlier this month. Legal aid is a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable people in society. Hundreds of thousands became ineligible when LASPO came into existence. The ramifications of the Act are being felt across public life.

The review was very comprehensive. The proposals to improve the legal aid system are the first positive proposals in the last twenty years. The Law Society hope that the changes will make it easier for ordinary people to qualify for legal aid and will work with the MoJ on proposals eg the means test and Christina flagged up the lack of profitability impacting on the viability of practices delivering legal aid work.

The Law Society fully supports working with MoJ on the increasing use of technology and currently partner with Barclays and others in a LawTech panel chaired by Christina and set up by government but industry led.

Lucy Frazer thanked The Law Society for their input into the review and thanked others in the room who had contributed.

The minister stressed the importance of the legal system, the rule of law and that the justice system is renowned across the world. The law is steeped in tradition but must embrace modernism. People recruit online, date online, send millions of messages by WhatsApp and Messenger. The law needs to embrace the changes.

Areas where the MoJ is promoting technology include court reform.  The minister referred to her early life at bar – where once barristers received briefs in pink tape by post, they now receive emails and the pace is much greater – updates are sent sometimes daily.

There is an ambitious £1 billion investment in court reform to modernise with online services and digital working. The technology is designed around the needs of users and the aim is to be proportionate. Already there are online systems for probate, divorce and some road traffic offences. Over 100,000 people have interacted in this way.


  • A supplier owed under £10,000 can sue and settle online. People can defend online up to this figure as well. Feedback is very positive.
  • Divorce petitions can be issues online. The reject rate is down from 40% to 1%.
  • Online social security tribunal judges able to contact participants.
  • Video facilities will be used more. These reduce the need to travel.
  • HMCTS has piloted video hearings in the tax tribunal.

The minister confirmed that there will always be a need for a physical court but the sector must seize the opportunities presented by technology.

How to best support individuals? Last month the MoJ launched its support programme.


  • The Legal Advice Centre’s Cornwall Video Chat Service which provides remote advice in Cornwall.[v] There is also a webcam platform. Clients can make contact from their phone or computer. They can photo documents and send over.
  • Advicenow pulls together the best advice resources and everything is written in plain English. There are eg template letters etc. The aim is to empowers users.
  • There is an app to help PIP cases. It identifies the points to be flagged up and what the result should be.
  • Barclays LawTech innovation – she spoke with them yesterday. LawTech companies can eg test products. They are working on smart contracts.
  • There is a pilot for better ways to signpost people to the best advice. Already this has been proactive in some areas eg child arrangements and out of court settlements.
  • She has been talking to Mencap about their Chatbot project. The first phase will be completed in April.
  • MoJ want Lawtech to thrive. The Lord Chancellor set up the panel Christina chairs.
  • Money has been provided for innovation and projects involving LawWorks and Islington Law Centre. There has been investment in Legal Beagles a free online forum.
  • In the region of £600,000 was provided to the SRA to work on technological solutions for small businesses.
  • They have provided funding for improving digital resource for separated families.

Lucy Frazer stressed that technology is a servant not a master. Last year the MoJ funded £1.6 billion in legal aid funding. It is imperative that this support continues. The LASPO review was informed and evidence based. There are commitments on scope and to improve legal aid.


  • Reform how to obtain exceptional case funding.
  • Changes to legal aid for guardianship cases.
  • Changes to the means test. There will be a pilot on expanding early advice for their legal problems. Money has to be spent effectively.

The minister stressed the need to expand global links. An illustration is the need to build judicial links internationally and she applauded the work already being carried out.

The government will continue to encourage tech solutions and innovative solutions.

There were several mentions of the Legal Education Foundation (LEF) which has funded a number of the innovative projects discussed.

Questions and Answers

Q Eileen Pereira, PSU, raised the journeys of LIPs. How can the MoJ prevent duplication and waste of resources?

A The minister said this was a good point eg Citizens Advice and Shelter doing work on this. The government is offering £5million. People will bid and across government, officials will evaluate projects. In that way, the government will know what people are doing and will share information. They will hold a seminar for users, Lawtech companies, law centres etc. and bring people together so they know who is working on what.

Q Natalie Byrom, LEF – it is good that there is evidence-based decision-making. She asked about evaluation.

A The evaluation of the court reform programme is on a day to day basis. The MoJ keep tweaking the systems based on feedback. And there will be a panel evaluating reform. HMCTS is now considering the criteria for evaluation and will announce when the evaluation will take place in due course.

Q Stephen Davis, Tuckers – The Law Society heat map shows that the average age of duty solicitors is 47. Fees have reduced. There is an issue about long term viability. The MoJ has failed to secure tenders in social welfare work. Has the MoJ sufficient expertise to ensure the viability of the profession?

A The minister recognises the need for a viable profession for solicitors and barristers. The profession needs to be attractive for recruitment and retention. The review was published. They read the TLS response, all other responses and met many representative bodies. They have started the next stage of the review process. Social welfare law – it is important to work out how users access advice and they recognise that face-to-face solutions are important. The MoJ will pilot face-to-face advice possibly housing and compare with tech solutions.

Q Jenny Beck, co-chair LAPG – there is a problem as to how to gather data from practitioners and MoJ. You cannot draw the invisible. Thousands cannot access and digital solutions are not appropriate. Concern about evidence gathering.

A  The minister thanked LAPG for input. She accepts that there are evidence gaps. There has been the assessment and there is an action plan. They did acknowledge the lack of data and will collect what they can:

  • by analysis of pilots. How affect clients? They will also capture the effect on other departments.
  • the court reform evaluation will monitor client journey eg failure rates, how many cases on what subjects and results.

They are conscious of the need to collect data. But some issues are not driven by data eg what are the perceptions of fairness? MoJ has had round tables to understand what vulnerable clients feel and with support groups who support vulnerable people.

Q Sara Plover, city lawyer said that many firms in the city are doing pro bono work – what more does the MoJ want?

A The minister felt it was not her job to say. The MoJ would be happy to co-ordinate. MoJ could help set up partnerships. Christina said the legal aid community was very grateful so offered to talk further to pro bono providers.

Q Emily Weidner, The Law Society – the divorce applications on Christmas Day. Was that really good?

A The MoJ want to make it easier for people to take cases forward. As regards family initiatives, the government is about to respond to no fault divorce.

Q David Marshall, Anthony Gold asked about the evidence from a paper by economists Fenn & Rickman referenced in the Part 2 response that there had been about a 20% fall in damages paid by defendants in clinical negligence cases post-LASPO (that is before any deduction of success fees from damages).

A The minister did not directly address that.  She said that most respondents thought the Part 2 reforms were working well, with the exception of concerns as to how DBAs were working in practice, and that there was no evidence of any fall in claims numbers and took that to mean that access to justice had been retained, but that it was difficult to assess beyond that. She did not deal directly with the point about damages, nor with why this hard quantitative evidence had not informed the policy.

Q Mona, trainee at Lovells – it can be difficult for people to use app-based systems. How is the MoJ tackling this?

A The minister has been to tribunals,  is liaising with HMCTS. It would help if departments get decisions right first time. They want people not to have to go to court. But if they do, then first-tier tribunal judges can review the documentation and make early decisions. The process is being tried now so should improve issues. There has been recruitment to appoint more judges.

For those who think technology is not the answer she gave the example that many young people contact the Samaritans by text rather than ring.

Q Carol Storer, Chair of The Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee asked about now – legal aid and courts – some people are enduring terrible experiences – what is the MoJ doing now as opposed to in the future? For example, people who need advice now with nowhere to go or people involved in court cases in person. They may go to court and there is nowhere to get any help if court offices are closed

A Don’t dismiss £1.6bn being spent on legal aid. What is the best way to help people and at what stage? LASPO review proposes imminent change.

Q Lord Mackay – asked about the quality of judiciary.

A The judiciary are very important. The MoJ need to work with the profession to attract more applicants.

Q David Hodson, International Family Law Group. All family jurisdictions. We say mediation must be voluntary. Other jurisdictions have or are looking at compulsory mediation. Should the MoJ?

A The minister has met many mediation organisations and are working with them.

Q Dr Natalie Byrom – can research community do more? Lots of people if moved from court process to mediation may not be able to get result they should. How monitor?

A There is a fantastic team at the MoJ and she welcomes support ideas and help. They are doing a lot of work on family law eg:

  1. Public family law working with another MP. Cross-government working is essential.
  2. The domestic abuse bill is going through Parliament now.
  3. There has been a second reading in parliament of the FGM private members bill.

Christina Blacklaws thanked the minister and urged people to talk to her and The Law Society staff if anyone wants to be involved in any of this work.


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Changes to legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in force on Monday

Funding for private family law cases is generally only available where the applicant for legal aid can show that they are a victim of domestic abuse, or where they can show that the aim of the proceedings is to protect a child at risk of abuse from a third party (such applications are in scope because of Paras 12 and 13 of Part 1 Schedule 1 of LASPO; see also Chapter 6 of the Handbook). Until the successful challenge to the original regulations by Rights of Women, there was a requirement that the evidence in support of the application had to be no more than 2 years old. Following the litigation, that was extended to 5 years.

From Monday 8 January 2018, the five year limit is removed. The existing evidence requirements are also removed, and replaced with a new Schedule 1 of the Procedure Regulations. When the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2017 come into force, acceptable evidence (for civil legal services to be provided to an adult (A) in relation to a matter arising out of a family relationship between A and another individual (B)) will include:

Domestic abuse – para 12 Part 1 Schedule 1 LASPO cases

  • Evidence that B has been arrested for a relevant domestic violence offence.
  • A relevant police caution for a domestic violence offence.
  • Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence which have not concluded.
  • A relevant conviction for a domestic violence offence.
  • Evidence of a court order binding over B in connection with a domestic violence offence.
  • A domestic violence protection notice issued under section 24 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 against B.
  • A relevant protective injunction.
  • An undertaking given in England and Wales under section 46 or 63E of the Family Law Act 1996 (or given in Scotland or Northern Ireland in place of a protective injunction) by B provided that a cross-undertaking relating to domestic violence was not given by A.
  • A copy of a finding of fact, made in proceedings in the United Kingdom, that there has been domestic violence by B.
  • An expert report produced as evidence in proceedings in the United Kingdom for the benefit of a court or tribunal confirming that a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship, was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B.
  • A letter or report from an appropriate health professional confirming that that professional, or another appropriate health professional—
    • (a)has examined A in person; and
    • (b)in the reasonable professional judgement of the author or the examining appropriate health professional A has, or has had, injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic violence.
  • A letter or report from—
    • (a) the appropriate health professional who made the referral described below;
    • (b) an appropriate health professional who has access to the medical records of A; or
    • (c) the person to whom the referral described below was made;
    • confirming that there was a referral by an appropriate health professional of A to a person who provides specialist support or assistance for victims of, or those at risk of, domestic violence.
  • A letter from any person who is a member of a multi-agency risk assessment conference (or other suitable local safeguarding forum) confirming that A, or a person with whom A is in a family relationship, is or has been at risk of harm from domestic violence by B.
  • A letter from an independent domestic violence advisor confirming that they are providing support to A.
  • A letter from an independent sexual violence advisor confirming that they are providing support to A relating to sexual violence by B.
  • A letter from an officer employed by a local authority or housing association (or their equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) for the purpose of supporting tenants containing—
    • (a) a statement to the effect that, in their reasonable professional judgment, a person with whom B is or has been in a family relationship is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B;
    • (b) a description of the specific matters relied upon to support that judgment; and
    • (c) a description of the support they provided to the victim of domestic violence or the person at risk of domestic violence by B.
  • A letter from an organisation providing domestic violence support services. 
    • The letter must confirm that it—
      • (a) is situated in England and Wales;
      • (b) has been operating for an uninterrupted period of six months or more; and
      • (c) provided A with support in relation to A’s needs as a victim, or person at risk, of domestic violence.
    • (3) The letter must contain—
      • (a) a statement to the effect that, in the reasonable professional judgement of the author of the letter, A is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence;
      • (b) a description of the specific matters relied upon to support that judgement;
      • (c) a description of the support provided to A; and
      • (d) a statement of the reasons why A needed that support.
  • A letter or report from an organisation providing domestic violence support services in the United Kingdom confirming—
    • (a) that a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship was refused admission to a refuge;
    • (b) the date on which they were refused admission to the refuge; and
    • (c) they sought admission to the refuge because of allegations of domestic violence by B.
  • A letter from a public authority confirming that a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship, was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B (or a copy of that assessment).
  • A letter from the Secretary of State for the Home Department confirming that A has been granted leave to remain in the United Kingdom under paragraph 289B of the Immigration Rules.
  • Evidence which the Director is satisfied demonstrates that A has been, or is at risk of being, the victim of domestic violence by B in the form of abuse which relates to financial matters.  

Protection of children – para 13 Part 1 Schedule 1 LASPO cases

  • Evidence that B has been arrested for a child abuse offence.
  • A relevant police caution for a child abuse offence.
  • Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a child abuse offence which have not concluded.
  • A relevant conviction for a child abuse offence.
  • A relevant protective injunction.
  • A copy of a finding of fact made in proceedings in the United Kingdom of abuse of a child by B.
  • A letter from a social services department in England and Wales (or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) confirming that the child was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of child abuse by B (or a copy of that assessment).
  • A letter from a social services department in England and Wales (or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) confirming that a child protection plan was put in place to protect the child from abuse or a risk of abuse by B (or a copy of that plan).
  • An application for an injunction described in paragraph 5 of this Schedule made with an application for a prohibited steps order against B under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 which has not, at the date of the application for civil legal services, been decided by the court.

Withdrawal of legal aid

The rules on when the Director can withdraw a grant of legal aid have also been revised. The new rule (a revised Reg 42(1)(k) of the Procedure Regulations) says legal aid may be withdrawn where the evidence relied on was:

  • a conviction for an offence and that conviction has subsequently been quashed; 
  • evidence of ongoing criminal proceedings and those proceedings have subsequently been concluded without a conviction;
  • evidence described in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 or paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 where—
    • (a) the order was obtained without notice to the respondent; and
    • (b) that order has subsequently been set aside by the court;
  • evidence described in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 where the application for a domestic violence protection order has been made under section 27 of the Crime and Security Act 2010(6) but has been unsuccessful on account of the conditions set out in section 28 of that Act not having been satisfied;
  • evidence described in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 where no charge is brought for the domestic violence offence (within the meaning of Schedule 1) and the Director is satisfied that it is unlikely that such a charge will be brought;
  • evidence described in paragraphs 16 to 18 of Schedule 1 and a public authority has confirmed in writing that it is satisfied—
    • (a) there has not been domestic violence between A and B; or
    • (b) A was not at any time at risk of being the victim of domestic violence
  • evidence described in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 where no charge is brought for the child abuse offence (within the meaning of Schedule 2) and the Director is satisfied that it is unlikely that such a charge will be brought;
  • evidence of an application described in paragraph 9 of Schedule 2 and that application has subsequently been withdrawn or refused,

unless there is some other form of evidence which would also justify a grant of legal aid.

Transitional provisions

The new evidence requirements are not backdated. They will only apply to Controlled work applications signed from Monday 8 January onward. Licensed Work applications signed from Monday 8 January will be made under the new rules, but those signed before that date and received by the LAA before 5pm on 15 January will be treated under the old rules. Grants of emergency representation made before 8 January will be treated under the old rules even if the 5 day notification is received by the LAA after 8 January.


This is a helpful development. Although the requirement to obtain evidence is still in place – with all the practical difficulties that causes – the widening of the range and age of what constitutes acceptable evidence should help make legal aid available more widely than before.

The manner of the change is also a helpful development. We have been saying for some years now – in the Handbook, on this site and elsewhere – that the current system of amending the scheme is not fit for purpose. Post-LASPO, most of the significant rules are no longer in LAA documents, but in primary and secondary legislation. Amendments to the rules are made via amendments to the legislation. Neither the MoJ nor the LAA make consolidated versions of the regulations available, and nor does the website. That means – unless you have the sort of subscription legal research tool that is unaffordable to most legal aid lawyers – the only way to work out the current rules is to cross-reference the original and amending regulations. The civil legal aid merits tests, for example, are not publicly available – unless you read four sets of regulations side by side, manually amending them as you go (or unless you buy the Handbook!). The MoJ and LAA should urgently make available – and keep up to date – a single consolidated version of all the key legal aid regulations. It cannot be right that the fundamental basis of the scheme is obscure to practitioners – and impenetrable to the public using it. It hasn’t yet gone that far, but removing the previous much amended sections of the Procedure Regulations and replacing them with a single up to date Schedule is a welcome step in the right direction. In the meantime, links to all the regulations and other resources can be found on our Resources page.


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Civil and family tender update

There have been several developments since we reported that the LAA opened the tender for face to face civil and family contracts to start in September 2018.

Tender open for HPCDS

The Agency has gone ahead with a complex price competitve tender for Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes (HPCDS), which seems unlikely to solve the crisis in finding sufficient practitioners to provide the schemes; but only time will tell. More information can be found here.

Most people are finding the process straightforward

However, most of the feedback we are receiving from practitioners bidding for face to face contracts is that the process is more straightforward than they anticipated.

People like the button which checks whether they have responded to all the questions they need to.

They also like being able to download a PDF of their bid. On the relevant ITT page, look out for the three little dots in the top right hand corner. If you click on that and then select ‘printable view’, you will be able to download a PDF of your bid.


The LAA has issued some initial frequently asked questions – FAQs. These are worth reading. Amongst other things, they confirm that you will be able to withdraw from part of your bid without jeopardising the rest of it (FAQ 10.1).

Miscellaneous NMS

All successful bidders will get 5 miscellaneous NMS; but you can bid for 25 or more to undertake compensation claims for vicitims of trafficking and modern slavery. ATLEU (legal charity the Anti Trafficking and Legal Exploitation Unit) is encouraging practitioners to apply. They point out that this work is ideally suited to employment lawyers, discriminantion lawyers, personal injury lawyers and civil litigators more generally. With claims for failure to pay the National Minimum Wage (which are often a feature of such cases) being worth upwards of £100,000, perhaps this is worth considering? More details can be found on ATLEU’s website.



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All civil and family tenders for 2018 now live

HPCDS contracts

The LAA announced on Thursday 12 October that the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) tender was open, which meant that all tenders for contracts to do legal aid work from the autumn of 2018 are now live. Details can be found here

The deadline to submit a HPCDS tender, which includes competition on price, is 4 December 2017.

To hold a HPCDS contract you must hold a Housing contract – tender deadline 10 November 2017.

CLA telephone service

The tender deadline for telephone services (which includes competition on price) in Housing and Debt, Family, Education and Discrimination is 10 November 2017.

Face to face contracts in all civil categories, family law and mediation

The tender for these contracts do not include price competition. Every applicant which submits a technically correct bid will be offered a contract. The deadline for submission is 10 November 2017. There is more information here.

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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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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.


  • 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

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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:

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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Filed under Crime, Policy, Uncategorized