Tag Archives: mental health

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

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

LAA changes assessment of emergency certificates

Yesterday, the LAA informed the representative bodies that it would be changing its approach to assessment of emergency certificates immediately. As far as we are aware they have not made a public announcement yet. Usually, such lack of notice would attract criticism; but perhaps practitioners should hold fire on this occasion.

First, because the issue relates to the situation where an emergency certificate expires before a substantive is issued. As emergency certificates last for eight weeks, the change will not affect people immediately. Second, because the change is an improvement for practitioners.

Up to the change, if a substantive certificate followed seamlessly with no break in time, the limitation on the substantive would also apply to the period covered by the emergency certificate (as per point of principle 58).  However, if there was a break between the two, work in the intervening period would not be covered and the limitations to each would be applied separately.

From 13 October, the LAA said it will treat work done in any intervening period as being conducted ‘at risk’, and will be paid for if the substantive certificate covers all the work undertaken.

We understand that the LAA will shortly be updating the Electronic Handbook and making an official announcement of this change.

 

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Filed under Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

Legal aid in mental health cases

Our thanks to Mental Health Law Online for drawing our attention to AMA v Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and Others (Mental health : All) [2015] UKUT 36 (AAC). This was a case in which the Upper Tribunal gave some guidance on the respective roles of legal representatives and welfare representatives and the capacity of a patient to make such appointments. At the start of his decision, Mr Justice Charles, the President, said this:

3.     The Appellant attended the hearing and was represented by solicitors and counsel who acted pro bono because he had been refused funding by a decision of the Special Controls Review Panel of the Legal Aid Agency dated 7 October 2014 and sent on 14 October 2014 (six days before the hearing).  I am very grateful to them for so acting, as no doubt are AMA and his mother.  In my view, others are also likely to be grateful because, in agreement with the FtT judge and them, and in disagreement with the Legal Aid Agency decision maker, this appeal is one that raises issues on which it is appropriate for the Upper Tribunal to give guidance.  Understandably there is no prospect that either AMA or his mother could themselves advance the relevant legal arguments.

4.       It is troubling, and this is not the first occasion that I have come across this, that legal aid is refused on appeals to the Upper Tribunal where it and the FtT consider that guidance is appropriate and absent representation pro bono the parties to the appeal and the Upper Tribunal would not have the benefit of necessary representation and argument.  Given that one of the functions of the Upper Tribunal is to give guidance that can be applied by the FtT in cases where parties may well not be represented I invite the Legal Aid Agency to consider whether in such “guidance cases” it should factor in and so expressly deal with the view of the judge (of the FtT or the Upper Tribunal) giving permission to appeal that the case is a “guidance case”.

This is therefore one of a number of cases, across various areas of the law, where senior members of the judiciary have expressed concern about decisions made to refuse funding – see further examples here and here (family),  and here (welfare benefits).

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Time is running out for old civil forms

Just to remind people, further to our previous post, that time is fast running out to submit pre-4 August forms. Completed paper forms, submitted by post, signed and dated before 1 September 2014, will be accepted by the LAA as long as they are received on or before 5pm on 5 September.

From 1 September 2014, the new forms are mandatory.

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Catch LAPG’s conference early bird deal

The LAPG conference will take place in London on 10 October. As usual, it features speakers from the LAA, MOJ, and Law Society amongst others, to bring you the very latest developments in legal aid. In addition, leading practitioners will provide workshops to help you run your legal aid practice successfully. Workshops include; family, social welfare law, recent developments in JR and exceptional funding, best practice in recruitment, working with interns, maxmising costs in civil and crime, Young Legal Aid Lawyers.

There will also be a debate on who and what will survive the unprecedented changes which continue to affect all categories of law. Recent conferences have sold out – can you afford to miss this opportunity to get completely up to speed in just one day? If you can get to London the night before, the pre conference dinner (£66.00 per head) is a good chance to catch up with colleagues and network with new people. LAPG can put you in touch with members who can offer overnight accommodation, so you won’t have hotel expenses.

But hurry – the early bird conference deal (£174 inc VAT for LAPG members and £234 for non members) is only available until 12 September. Book using the conference flyer which can be downloaded here.

 

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