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Legal Aid News archive

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News items for Legal Aid are no longer listed separately. See the main Legal Aid page, and the general Updates, for details about the Legal Aid scheme.

Miscellaneous

  • The LSC announced on 31/7/09 that it will postpone the tender for the new civil legal aid contracts until late 2009 or early 2010, the new 3-year contracts will commence in October 2010, and current contracts will be extended for 6 months.[1]
  • See Consultations page for details of the LSC's consultation on civil bid rounds for 2010, which closed on 23/1/09.
  • 29/09/12: The following Legal Aid forms relevant to mental health law are being updated from 1/10/12: CLSAPP1 (application for Legal Aid certificate), CLSMEANS1 (financial assessment form), MEANS1P (supplementary means assessment form for completion by prisoners), CLSMEANS2 (financial assessment form). All forms signed and dated on or after 1/10/12 must be new versions. Old forms signed before that date will be accepted until 30/10/12. New means assessment forms may be used immediately. See LSC, 'Masterpack Forms Change Guide October 2012' (28/9/12)
  1. LSC announces postponement of civil bid rounds for 2010 contracts - press release 31/7/09

Old news

  • 01/04/13: To coincide with the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and the abolition of the Legal Services Commission, both of which take effect on 1 April, the Legal Aid Agency has announced that neither the fixed fees system nor the matter start system is 'fit for purpose'. A spokesman stated that (a) the mental health fixed fee system has reached a level of complexity of which Heath Robinson would have been proud, so from today future payments will be based on a reasonable hourly rate for work reasonably incurred; and (b) the matter start system is unnecessary because of the abolition of fixed fees (in any event, ECHR obligations mean the total number of cases is determined by the number of patients detained by the state), so from henceforth individual firms may carry out as many cases as reputation and market forces permit. The Federation Of Outpatient Lawyers issued the following initial statement: 'This common sense approach seems too good to be true.' [April Fool!]
  • 21/06/12: Following a consultation process (held as a result of judicial review proceedings) the LSC has decided to discontinue the Specialist Support Service. Contracts will end on 6/7/12. See Consultations#Legal Services Commission
  • 05/05/12: LSC, 'Legal Aid Bill gets Royal Assent' (1/5/12). The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 is due to amend the scope, eligibility and other aspects of the legal aid scheme on 1/4/13. In order to implement the changes, the Legal Services Commission will tender for new contracts for face-to-face advice and/or telephone advice in certain areas of law (not mental health or community care). The Commission will be replaced by the Legal Aid Agency, which will be an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice.
  • 10/04/12: LSC, 'New Keycard 48 to be introduced from 9 April' (5/4/12). Keycard 48 reflects an increase in the standard dependants' allowances assessed for a partner or child living within the client's household; the new rates are applicable to new applications or further assessments made on or after 9 April 2012. Eligibility limits are unchanged.
  • 28/03/12: LSC, 'Accreditation contribution scheme update' (28/3/12). From 2/4/12 the LSC will reduce the amount it contributes to the costs of mental health panel membership by 50% to £73.44; from 1/4/13 there will be no contribution at all. In recent weeks the Law Society's accreditation fees doubled to £500 plus VAT.
  • 05/03/12: LSC, 'Headline intentions for future tenders' (February 2012). The main points are: (1) To implement scope changes in April 2013, the LSC plans to tender for face-to-face contracts over the next year in the following areas: Family; Asylum (including residual non-asylum work); Housing and Debt; Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes. (2) Existing contracts will amended, not terminated, in the following areas: Community Care; Mental Health; Actions Against the Police; Public Law. (3) Contracts for categories being removed from scope will be terminated. (4) Crime contracts will not be re-tendered before 2015. (5) A tender exercise for mediation work will be carried out to increase provision. (6) The telephone gateway (operator service and specialist telephone advice) plans, which are set out in detail, apply to community care but not mental health. (7) All supervisors in Public Law Children work may have to be Children Panel members, but there are no other changes to accreditation planned. (8) All providers must hold either SQM or Lexcel.
  • 05/03/12: Sir Bill Callaghan, LSC Chairman, 'The Future of Legal Aid' (Speech to Liverpool Law Society, 8/2/12). This speech suggested that the matter-start system will be abolished in the next contract: 'The ongoing administration of new matter start allocations is now attracting particular attention because it takes a great deal of effort for both providers and LSC staff. The removal of a fixed allocation of new matter starts is one idea that has been put to us by representative bodies. Fixed allocations mean that more popular providers often run out of work and are refused an increase while other providers in the area have unused matter starts. A more open competition at client level would be one way of dealing with this issue and we think it should improve the quality of provision and client care. What we’re talking about here is licensing civil contract work rather than simply allocating a fixed number of new matter starts. There is still a lot discussion to be had about the detail of how this will work. But we envisage introducing this approach in April 2013 at the same time as the LSC is abolished and the new Executive Agency takes over.'
  • 05/03/12: Legal Aid Handbook, 'LSC concede judicial review; specialist support reprieved' (1/3/12). The LSC conceded a JR claim brought by the Public Law Project of the decision, made without consultation, to abolish the specialist support service. Instead of the contracts expiring in March 2012 they will be extended until 30/6/12 pending a consultation process. The mental health specialist support service, run by Scott Moncrieff Solicitors, can be called on 0844 800 3364 from Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.
  • 05/01/12: LSC, 'Civil forms preview - February 2012' (5/1/12). A new CW1&2(MH) form becomes mandatory on 1/2/12. Other changed civil/family forms are : CW1, CW2(IMM), CLSMEANS1 & CK3, CLSAPP3, CLSAPP5, CLSAPP8, CLSAPP8A, CLSCLAIM1A Guidance & CLSCLAIM5A Guidance. Old versions signed and dated on or before 1/2/12 will be accepted until 29/2/12.
  • 20/11/11: Hansard HL Deb, 26 October 2011, col 831. This is the transcript of a debate in the House of Lords on a motion to annul the Community Legal Service (Funding) (Amendment No.2) Order 2011 (the order which reduces civil fee rates by 10%); following the debate the motion was withdrawn. See Community Legal Service (Funding) (Amendment No.2) Order 2011
  • 29/09/11: October civil forms preview. From 3/10/11 the following forms change (not all are directly related to mental health law): Means1; Means1 'The guide' and CLSCK3; Means7; CLAIM1, 1A, 2, 5, 5A; CLAIM1 & CLAIM2 checklists; CW1; ECClaim 1 (IMM) and (MH); TFF.
  • 12/06/11: Between May 2010 and May 2011, the LSC spent £7,196,813 on redundancies: a total of 94 people have so far been made redundant. The figures do not include those who left through other means, such as early retirement, the end of a secondment from another organisation, mutual terminations or compromise agreements. See LSC, 'Re Your Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request' (letter, 2/6/11).
  • 09/04/11: LSC, 'Forms preview May 2011' (8/4/11). The following will change: CLASAPP3, CLSPP5, CLSCLAIM1, CLSCLAIM1A, CLSCLAIM1A Guidance, CLSCLAIM2, CLSCLAIM5A, CLSCLAIM5A Guidance, CW1 Public Law. They are mandatory from 9/5/11 and must not be used before then. Old forms (signed before 9/5/11) will be accepted until 3/6/11.
  • 30/03/11: On 28/3/11, the LSC emailed mental health firms with a questionnaire to comply with the judgment in Public Interest Lawyers v LSC (2010) EWHC 3277 (Admin). The questions are worded in the hope of avoiding having to make any changes; nonetheless, responses are encouraged and should be emailed to the LSC by 8/4/11. The LSC will then publish a disability impact assessment by 30/4/11. At the same time it will publish the mitigating steps it plans to make (if any), consult on them until 15/6/11, and implement them on 1/7/11.
  • 23/03/11: The Law Society published a news item entitled 'Society criticises mental health consultation delays' today. Because of the LSC's plan to dilly-dally over the disability impact assessment and consultation on contract changes following Public Interest Lawyers v LSC (2010) EWHC 3277 (Admin), 'clients will be forced into the very situation that the impact assessment is meant to be considering and potentially preventing'; if the provisions for urgent amendments were used then changes could be implemented by early April instead of the end of June as planned.
  • 24/02/11: On 24/2/11 the LSC published a 'forms preview' for the April 2011 changes to their forms. There are very minor changes to Checklist (CK3), and changes to the following forms which do not relate to mental health law: CW2 (IMM), CW3A, CW3B, CW3C.
  • 07/01/11: 0n 22/12/10 the LSC published revised Key Performance Indicators which are enforceable under the 2010 Civil Contract. The three KPI aims are (1) quality, (2) access, and (3) cost. The following KPIs apply to mental health: KPI 2A: 'Assessment reductions to be no more than 10% (exceptional cases)', KPI 2B: 'Assessment reductions to be no more than 15% (licensed work)', KPI 2D: 'Fixed Fee Margin 20%', KPI 3: 'NMS usage - providers must use either the minimum contract allocation or at least 85% of their current allocation' (whichever is the greater). The following KPIs do not apply to mental health: KPI 1A: 'Substantive Benefit: Legal Help', KPI 1B: 'Substantive Benefit: CLR and Licensed Work', KPI 1C: 'Post-investigation of proceedings', KPI 1D: 'ADR to be proposed/accepted in no less than 10% of a providers civil representation cases where appropriate', KPI 2C: 'Damages vs. Costs: Damages to be 2:1 the level of costs (net of any costs recovered)'. See the CLS news item, the guidance document and the summary chart.
  • 19/12/10: On 17/12/10 the LSC published details of the outcomes of each of the main civil tender processes, including for the mental health SHA tender and HSH tender. These documents list each firm and the number of matter starts awarded to them, sorted by procurement area; the lists may change as contract validation is still ongoing and some contracts are yet to be issued. The five firms for Ashworth are: Peter Edwards Law (125 matter starts), Duncan Lewis & Co (108), Jackson & Canter LLP (30), RMNJ Solicitors (30), Swain & Co (30). The five firms for Broadmoor are: Scott-Moncrieff, Harbour & Sinclair (120), Blavo & Co (94), Burke Niazi Solicitors (40), Gledhill Solicitors (30), Wolton and Co (30). The six firms for Rampton are: Scott-Moncrieff, Harbour & Sinclair (110), Cartwright King (96), Switalskis (75), Burke Niazi Solicitors (40), Donovan Newton Solicitors (30), Peter Edwards Law (30). Using totals across SHA procurement areas, the largest firms in the SHA tender are: Duncan Lewis & Co (3262), Blavo & Co Solicitors (2910), CMHT Solicitors (1305), Cartwright King (1155), Switalskis (860), Peters & Co (804), Guile Nicholas (759), Dozie & Co (732), Peter Edwards Law Ltd (710), Andrew Markham & Co (702), Scott-Moncrieff Harbour & Sinclair (653), Burke Niazi Solicitors (606), Thaliwal Bridge (581), Corper Solicitors (519), RMNJ Solicitors (506).
  • 16/12/10: LSC, 'Civil Tenders Update', 13/12/10. In relation to the mental health JR it is stated that 'In the Public Interest Lawyers case, a wide range of challenges were made relating to the Mental Health and Public Law tenders. The majority of grounds of challenge were abandoned before the final hearing and others apart from one were rejected by the court.' This is misleading: the LSC lost both on verification and the general disability equality duty. Apparently most of the remaining challenges arising out of the 2010 tender process relate to individual tender or appeal decisions and are therefore unlikely to affect other contracts.
  • 24/11/10: CLS News item 23/11/10: New LSC forms mandatory from 15 November - A reminder that new versions of the following must be used: CLS APP1, CLS APP6, CLSAPP7, CLS APP8, CLS MEANS 1, 1A, 1B, 1C, CLS MEANS 2, CLS MEANS 3, CLS MEANS 4, CLS MEANS 5, Means Guidance & Checklist (CK3), CLS POA1, CW1, CW1&2 (MH), CW2 (IMM), CW Counsel (MH), CW3A, 3B & 3C, Civil Codes Guidance & Guidance for Reporting Controlled Work; some crime forms have also changed.
  • 24/11/10: Legal Aid was mentioned in Parliament on 7/9/10 in response to the written question: 'To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the level of funding for legal aid for cases relating to mental health legislation compared to that for other legal sectors.' The minister replied that Legal Aid for MHT work is not means-tested, that in order to ensure that demand is met 1,500 more new matter starts will be allocated for 2010-11 than in 2009-10, that the mental health contract tenders were carried out on a non-competitive basis, and that the number of applicants who have been provisionally offered a contract closely matches the number of existing providers. He ignored the high secure tender which was competitive, and which reduced the number of suppliers from 98 to 9 (source: presentation at MHLA conference, 19/11/10). In the general tender there were 288 successful applicants, including 68 new entrants (34 of which are in London) (source: LSC, 'Statement on Mental Health Awards', 17/6/10; figures corrected 29/11/10). A broadly similar answer was given to a written question on 28/10/10.
  • 17/11/10: On 15/11/10 the LSC published 'Devolved Powers in Judicial Review cases under the 2010 Contract'. Mental health firms who had 2007 contracts can continue to exercise devolved powers for mental health judicial reviews, but from 1/4/11 this will only be possible if the power has specifically been granted. The LSC will be consulting on criteria for awarding the power to exercise devolved powers.
  • 02/11/10: The LSC have refused permission for publication of correspondence clarifying their August 2010 newsletter statement on Level 1/2 fees: 'The only official guidance that can be published is the specification and the principles of MH document'. Further guidance on Level 1/2 fees may be included in an update to the 'Principles' document. You will each need individually to ask the LSC whether or not the newsletter is compatible with the official guidance (it is not: see news item of 7/10/10).
  • 20/10/10: New civil Legal Aid forms - updated 18/10/10 - These forms are mandatory from 15/11/10 and may not be used before that date. The following have new versions: CLS APP1, 6, 7, 8; CLS MEANS1, 1A, 1B, 1C, 2, 3, 4, & 5; Means Guidance & Checklist (CK3); CLS POA1; CW1, CW1&2 (MH), CW2 (IMM), CW Counsel (MH), CW3A, 3B & 3C; Civil Codes Guidance & Guidance for Reporting Controlled Work.
  • 07/10/10: The LSC has resiled from the position in the August 2010 newsletter that Level 2 cannot be claimed on the day of first attendance even where the solicitor makes the Tribunal application on the day or the client has previously made an application. The division between Level 1 and 2 must be clearly evidenced on the file. Permission is currently being obtained from the LSC Policy Team to publish the relevant email here.
  • Law Society: Q&A: judicial review outcome - 5/10/10 - Including "11. Will the Law Society now be challenging the LSC's other legal aid tender procedures? We are reviewing the position in respect of the other tenders in the light of the Divisional Court's judgment. However, the issues in the other areas are somewhat different from the position in family legal aid. The key issue for the Divisional Court was the way in which the LSC applied the selection criterion relating to accreditation, and the fact that this arbitrarily and unfairly excluded firms that had not had opportunity to become accredited in order to show that they were in fact as qualified to undertake the work as the winners. Moreover, the court recorded that the number of firms excluded was out of all proportion to the number that was expected by the LSC, and that this drastic reduction in the number of providers was inconsistent with the LSC's strategic aims and statutory duties. This combination of factors was unique to the family tender. The fact that we have succeeded in this one challenge does not therefore mean that we would necessarily do so in other fields."
  • Version 6 of Civil Contract 2010 Verification: Frequently Asked Questions - 1/9/10 - This version corrects a previously incorrect answer to question 3.2 (I am concerned that I will not be able to deliver all the matter starts that I have been allocated, what should I do?) The answer in version 2 was: "If you are in any doubt as to whether you can deliver all your matter starts, please contact us through the message board and let us know how many you would like. We will then adjust your total. It is important that you receive the right allocation at the start of the contract." The current answer is: "You will be required to deliver both the volume and breadth of services for which you have successfully tendered and been allocated matter starts in accordance with your bid and ranking (if applicable to your tender). However, as part of the verification process the LSC is giving successful applicants who are concerned that they will not be able to deliver the volume allocated to them an opportunity to review their allocation and request a reduction. Where such requests are received we will consider the implications for the procurement area with a view to reallocating any surplus matter starts to other providers in accordance with the allocation process set out in the IFA."
  • CLS News: Update on accreditation contribution scheme - 18/8/10 - From 14/10/10 the LSC will only pay £146.88 towards accreditation and re-accreditation to the Law Society Mental Health panel (these figures are from a document not on the LSC website). The rationale is that this is 50% of the cost.
  • LSC Mental Health Newsletter August 2010 - 13/8/10 - This Legal Services Commission newsletter contains information under the following headings: (1) Running record of costs; (2) Level 1 rates; (3) Application turnaround; (4) Application for prior authorities. It is stated that "If your client has applied to the Tribunal before your initial attendance, then all work undertaken on the date you first attend with the client is deemed to be level 1 and must be claimed at Legal Help rates" but this is inconsistent with specification paragraphs 12.18-12.20 and Principles document paragraph 2. The small print contains the following gem: "The views expressed in this publication may not be the views of the Legal Services Commission."
  • LSC Tendering process news - 12/8/10 - "The appeals process for Mental Health services for Strategic Health Authorities is now complete. Assessment of tenders for work at High Security Hospitals is ongoing and we will notify applicants of the outcome of this tender week beginning 16 August".
  • CLS News: Financial stewardship visits – guidance published - 5/8/10 - This is a draft version (marked "version 5" and "first edition" and dated April 2010) of the manual used by "relationship" managers for their "financial stewardship visits". The areas dealt with are: (1) Obtaining and retaining evidence of means (civil only); (2) Case splitting and duplicate claiming (civil only); (3) Family level 1 and 2 fees; (4) Evaluating publicly-funded WIP (civil only); (5) Management of certificated payments on account; and (6) Validation of tolerance claims. It discusses how visits are organised and potential outcomes, including contract sanctions.
  • As predicted, a significant number of firms bid for the maximum possible number of matter starts in the expectation that everybody else would do likewise. As there were many more matter starts bid for than were available, everybody got a pro rata reduction. This left many firms who did not overbid with too few matter starts to be economically viable. The following statements have been issued:
  • LSC News: On 17/6/10 the LSC published a statement on Mental Health contract awards.
  • Notifications for the award of contracts in mental health law were sent out on 10/6/10 via the Bravo e-tendering message boards. These inform applicants of the number of Matter Starts awarded to them in each Strategic Health Authority Procurement Area.
  • LSC Update: Indicative timetable for Mental Health tender process - 26/4/10 - The results of the tendering process for mental health Legal Aid work (except in special hospitals) was due to be published on 26/4/10 but, because of the expected regime change, will be announced at some stage before the end of May. The extra time will be used to check whether firms are able to deliver the services they have tendered for. See #Tender process timetable below.
  • CLS News: Updated CLS financial eligibility keycard now available - 12/4/10 - To be used for new and further assessments from 12/4/10. The changes in this edition reflect an increase in the standard dependants allowances assessed for a partner or child living with the applicant (based on income support uprating); eligibility limits are unchanged.
  • CLS News: Important changes to the Funding Code - 1/4/10 - "The changes affect the criteria for judicial review, multi-party actions and claims against public authorities and set up new appeal structures for certain high cost and public interest cases."
  • CLS News: Provider payments in March - 9/3/10 - Some bills for civil representation, crown court litigation and very high cost case work which should have been paid on the weeks commencing 15, 22 and 29 March may be delayed. Standard Monthly Payments and other payments are unaffected.
  • Mental Health Newsletter, 28/1/10 - The LSC have started posting a newsletter to mental health law firms. The January edition includes confirmation that (1) all contract work and MHA/MCA/related public law licensed work is dealt with by Mental Health Unit in Liverpool, and (2) the new form EC Claim1 became mandatory on 1/11/09. The small print, bizarrely, states that "The views expressed in this publication may not be the views of the Legal Services Commission".
  • Mental Health Procurement Plan, 22/1/10 - This document shows the Mental Health services the LSC are commissioning and the volume of New Matter Starts (NMS) available in each Strategic Health Authority procurement area and High Security Hospital from October 2010.
  • Changes to the civil legal aid means test 20-01-2010 - From 11/1/10 onwards, a disregard can be made for any monthly payment that the client (or his partner, where applicable) is required to make under a contribution order towards the costs of representation in his criminal case.
  • 2010 civil contract: arrangements for billing of disbursements 22-12-2009 - When the new contract starts in October 2010, mental health firms will be able to apply for interim payments of disbursements (excluding counsel's fees) where six months have elapsed since (a) the start of the matter and (b) any previous interim payment application. Paragraph 9.50 of the MH specification has been amended accordingly.
  • LSC outlines actions following NAO report 17-12-2009 - Following a slating by the National Audit Office, the LSC have written to all firms. Of relevance to mental health law: on audit, in certain circumstances, they had allowed 2 hours' work without evidence of entitlement, but this practice will cease; firms with high numbers of split cases and multiple matter starts for a single client will be investigated with a view to the recovery of cash; and a reminder was given of the general duties of keeping records to justify claims.
  • Civil case management - change in contact details 16-12-2009 - From February 2010, the phone number for all urgent enquiries about civil certificated work is 0300 200 2020; email or post should be used for non-urgent enquiries (legal-enquiries@legalservices.gov.uk for civil legal, finance-enquiries@legalservices.gov.uk for finance, means-enquiries for means queries)
  • Fixed fee contract compliance audit update, 10-11-2009 - From 1/10/09, any reduction will count towards the total number of files nil assessed. For example, if there are two nil-assessed files, plus one file reduced by 25%, then the overall figure will be 2.25 rather than 2.
  • New matter starts - guidance to firms approaching their contract limit, 20-10-2009 - The LSC are running out of money so will remove matter starts from firms unlikely to use them; if they can afford it these will be reallocated; consideration will be given to modest increases for firms at imminent risk of running out, but generally they will look at "access to services" across the procurement area as a whole as opposed to individual provider level.

Tender process timetable

Message dated 28/5/10:

Important update on timetable for the mental health tender process
We will notify providers of the outcome of the Mental Health process by 7 June. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused by this change to the timetable, following additional necessary clarifications.
We will inform all applicant organisations of the result of the tender process through the messaging system in the eTendering portal.

Message from LSC Policy Team dated 26/4/10:

The results of the Tender Process for Strategic Health Authority Areas were due to be communicated to Applicant Organisations on 26 April 2010. However, we will not now be able to notify Applicants of the result of the tender process before 6 May 2010. Following the election, we will need to discuss the outcome of the tender process with any new ministers, and it is likely that notification to Applicants will take place shortly after this. We hope to be able to notify Applicants of our initial decisions before the end of May, thereby giving them over 4 months’ notice before the new contract starts.
We will inform all Applicant Organisations of the result of the tender process through the messaging system in the eTendering portal.
We will be using some of this additional time to carry out due diligence checks to confirm whether Applicant Organisations are in a position to deliver the services they have tendered for.