Tag Archives: news

Face to face tender – timetable news and an unexpected development

The LSC has announced the timetable for submitting ITTs for contracts to start in April 2013.

The ITT will open on Friday 14 September and close at noon on 22 October.

Organisations that have already submitted a PQQ successfully will receive an invitation to complete the ITT and do not need to do anything more.

Any organisation that missed the PQQ stage has a second chance to submit one. This will open on 14 September and close on 28 September. This is very unexpected; but will be warmly welcomed by those who missed the original deadline.

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News round up

In this update:

  • Legal aid and the Olympics
  • Assessing the means of prisoners
  • Devolved powers for judicial review
  • Why LGFS claims are rejected
  • LSC release annual statistics
  • Calling the LSC
  • Regulation of solicitors in NfPs

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Weekly round up

Legal aid bill

As we reported earlier in the week, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights criticised a number of aspects of the bill, points that were echoed in the first day of the Lords Committee Stage on Tuesday. The transcript of that debate is here, and the bill homepage on the Parliament website is also a useful resource.

Family Advocacy Scheme

The LSC have issued guidance (PDF) on claiming for work done under FAS. See also the announcement on the LSC website for more information.

Immigration and Asylum court fees

New court fees for some immigration cases have been introduced. Legally aided clients will not be required to pay the fee, and those who become legally aided during the life of the case can apply for a refund. However, if the fee is paid it is not a recoverable disbursement, since legally aided clients are exempt from paying the fee.

In other news

We reported this week also on the appointment of a new LSC chief executive, Matthew Coats, and on a potentially important development for firms not awarded a contract in the recent tender round.

Finally, have a very peaceful Christmas break and our best wishes for the year ahead.


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Major concession on legal aid bill?

The Mirror reports that the government “is ditching plans to cut legal aid in medical negligence cases”. While that would be a welcome move – and perhaps not unexpected; clinical negligence and domestic violence being at the top of most predictions of likely concessions – the Gazette is reporting that the Ministry of Justice is neither confirming nor denying the report and there has certainly been no official announcement. LAG speculates that it is likely that there will be such a concession, but that it has leaked rather earlier than the government would have liked.

Whatever the true position, it does seem certain that the legal aid bill is in for a much less smooth passage through the Lords than the Commons, having been heavily criticised by all speakers except the minister at second reading earlier in the week. When there are confirmed changes, we will bring them to you.

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A sticking plaster on a broken leg

On the day the legal aid bill has its second reading in the House of Lords, there is finally some detail on the £20 million announced during the Commons stages of the bill.

The Cabinet Office has announced £16.8million to help fund the advice sector in England (the balance going to the devolved administrators, who do not seem to have made any announcements yet).

The fund will be administered by the Big Lottery, and will support housing, debt, welfare benefits and employment advice services. Each grant will be for service delivery and be between £40,000 and £70,000. To qualify, organisations must show that they provide advice in at least one of those areas and have suffered a cut of least 10% in central or local government funding in the financial year 2011-12. More details of the exact criteria will follow when applications open before the end of the month.

There is also to be a review of the future of the advice sector, concluding early next year, though there has as yet been no further detail on that.

£17million, while welcome, is a small amount compared to the cuts social welfare advice providers are facing; scope cuts, of course, will not take effect until the next financial year.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords debate on second reading can be seen here; how much reliance will ministers place on this new fund to try to placate opposition?


Filed under Civil, Legal aid bill, Policy, Social welfare

Carolyn Downs to leave the LSC

In a press release yesterday, the Local Government Association (LGA) announced that it has appointed Carolyn Downs as the new Chief Executive of the organisation.

Sir Merrick Cockell, LG Group Chairman, commented on the appointment: “I am delighted to welcome Carolyn as Chief Executive of the LGA. She brings a wealth of experience to the role, having worked at every tier of government nationally, regionally and locally – and for virtually every different type of local authority.”

Carolyn expressed a genuine desire to improve legal aid administration, and her approach impressed many legal aid practitioners. Her departure at this crucial time must be a further cause for concern.

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Announcements week ending 5th August 2011

The fallout from the collapse of the Immigration Advisory Service continues. There was an excellent piece in the Guardian this week, pointing out the human cost of the loss of IAS and the wider cuts facing immigration legal aid. Following previous announcements about re-allocation of urgent cases and unused matter starts, the LSC have given an update on progress, promising news on tenders next week.

Criminal duty solicitor rotas for the period July to January have now been posted on the LSC website (a mere month after they started), and the LSC has also confirmed that their Chester office will no longer accept criminal bills. CDS4 and 5 forms should be sent to Nottingham, CDS7s to Nottingham or Liverpool, and CDS4as to Liverpool.

CDS4, 4a, 5 and 7 forms, as well as civil POA1s, can now also be submitted electronically following the roll-out of the LSC’s e-forms initiative. Details on how to sign up can be found here. The LSC argues that the process is quicker and more efficient, and leads to faster payments, than using paper forms.

Also this week, we have posted separately on extension of JR devolved powers and new crime forms. See also here for an important case on costs.

Finally, ITV’s Tonight programme next week will be called “What Price Justice?”, investigating the impact of the legal aid bill. We understand the focus will be on clinical negligence, but other areas of legal aid will be covered as well. The programme will be broadcast on Thursday 11th August at 7.30pm on ITV1.

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Latest LSC announcements

There have been a series of important announcements by the LSC in recent days:

  • Extending emergency certificates (see separate post);
  • Changes to when and how you can call and fax the LSC;
  • Changes to reporting of immigration cases;
  • Services at a new immigration removal centre;
  • Re-announcement of family tenders proposal (see previous post);
  • New criminal forms.

Problems with the LSC’s processing backlog – applications, amendments and bills – are getting worse. In an attempt to solve one of the problems delay was causing practitioners, they have extended emergency certificates to 8 weeks. Meanwhile, to give themselves more time to cope with the paperwork, they have reduced the times and circumstances in which you can call them to discuss cases. The changes are:

  • You can only call them between 10am and noon, or between 3pm and 5pm (between 9am and 1pm if it is about AGFS). At the end of that time, if you are still on hold you will be cut off.
  • Even between those hours, you should only call if it is “urgent” – examples given include where a case is imminent or where there is severe financial hardship. No doubt practitioners and LSC caseworkers will define urgent differently.

However, there is no longer any need to phone first to get authorisation to send a fax. But only “urgent” faxes will be accepted and the prescribed fax header sheet must be used. Word and PDF versions of the header sheet can be found on the LSC website.

Immigration practitioners will need to note that from now on bail applications must be given a separate UFN to that of the main case. See the LSC website for guidance. Elsewhere, the LSC has awarded exclusive contracts for detention advice without a tendering process at the new Morton Hall Removal Centre. Contracts are initially for six months. So if you do not hold an exclusive contract, you can not advise clients at Morton Hall (subject to the usual exceptions).

Finally, criminal practioners are reminded that the new CDS 14, 15 and 16 forms become mandatory from 1st August.


UPDATE: This post was amended on 23rd August to correct the link to the fax header sheet following its change on the LSC website


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News and announcements week ending 15th July 2011

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – inevitably now being shortened to LASPO – entered its committee stage this week. Evidence sessions on legal aid this week include:

There is a clear consensus from the witnesses that the proposals in the Bill are likely to exclude many vulnerable people from justice. Hopefully the committee will hear the many points being made. Evidence published to date can be found here; the committee are accepting evidence until October.

Elsewhere, the main news of the week has been the collapse of the Immigration Advisory Service. As we reported on Thursday, the LSC are inviting other immigration providers to bid for IAS work. Jon Robins in the Guardian has more on the background.

But if you only read one thing this week, make it this brilliant piece by Nick Armstrong, guesting on Richard Moorhead’s Lawyer Watch blog and pointing out just who will suffer when immigration is removed from legal aid. Impassioned, furious, but detailed and utterly right, it demonstrates exactly how unjust and short-sighted is what is proposed. Also well worth reading is this piece from Nearly Legal, pointing out that the proposed removal of legal aid from squatters disguises a much more significant impact on Gypsies and travellers. Two very different but compelling examples of how legal aid cuts impact the most vulnerable.

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