Legal Aid News archive
- 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.
- See Consultations page for details of the LSC's consultation on civil bid rounds for 2010, which closed on 23/1/09.
- See Consultations page for details of the consultation on proposed amendments to the Community Legal Service (Financial) Regulations 2000; see Community Legal Service (Financial) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 for the response.
- New Legal Aid forms must be used from 1/4/13: see Civil forms preview on MOJ website
- 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)
- Contract Notice: Mental Health amendments from 3/11/08. Old [Add link]
- LSC announces postponement of civil bid rounds for 2010 contracts - press release 31/7/09
- 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.
- 31/12/11: LSC, 'Revised cost limitations on civil legal aid certificates' (12/12/11). These changes have been made as a result of the 10% fee reduction.
- 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
- 10/11/11: LSC, 'New prior authority form to instruct civil legal aid experts' (CLS News, 9/11/11). New form APP8A introduced, together with guidance document.
- 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.
- 27/07/11: Legal Services Commission, 'Devolved powers in judicial review cases under the 2010 contract' (dated 31/7/11, published 27/7/11). The interim position has been extended to 31/1/12: devolved powers in JR cases may be exercised if a provider (a) has a contract in public law or the relevant category of law and (b) had such devolved powers under the previous contract.
- 27/07/11: LSC, 'CLS News: Emergency certificates now run for eight weeks – but check eligibility evidence and scope' (21/7/11). Emergency certificates granted from 1/5/11 will remain in force for eight weeks
- 23/07/11: LSC, 'CLS News: Mental health legal services: your views on equality impact assessment' (21/7/11). This is a reminder that the deadline for submitting views on the options for next steps following the equality impact assessment on the high secure hospital contracts is 29/7/11.
- 20/7/11: LSC, 'CLS News: Mental health legal services: equality impact assessment published' (4/7/11), relating to LSC, 'Equality Impact Assessment of exclusive mental health legal services contracts in High Security Hospitals' (4/7/11). The LSC have concluded that there is no need for immediate change but have set out possible options for the future: (1) no change (the recommended option); (2) Exceptional circumstances to allow clients to retain their provider; (3) Individual arrangements at each hospital; (4) Wider choice of provider (e.g. 10) at each hospital through additional tender or extending number of 2010 contracts; (5) Wider choice of provider (e.g. 10) at each hospital through additional tender or extending number of 2010 contracts. Views on the decision and options are sought by 29/7/11.
- 22/06/11: CLS News, 'Legal aid reform: consultation response and Bill published' (21/6/11). This news item contains links to the consultation response and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill 2011, and notes that the Bill, in addition to reducing scope, eligibility and fees, will close the LSC and replace it with an executive agency of the MOJ.
- 22/06/11: LSC, 'Summary of changes to be implemented on 3 Oct 2011' (21/6/11). The 10% reduction, and other fee changes, will be implemented on 3/10/11.
- 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.
- 09/04/11: Legal Services Commission, 'Community Legal Services: Keycard No 47' (April 2011). This document is helpful if working out financial eligibility for Legal Help. The changes in this edition are that: (1) references to LSC Manual 2F are changed to 2E; (2) dependents' allowances are increased. In force 11/4/11.
- 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  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.
- 30/03/11: House of Commons Justice Committee, 'Government's proposed reform of legal aid' (Third Report of Session 2010–11, Volume I, dated 29/3/11, published 30/3/11). This document, among other things, contains interesting information about volume of work and expenditure on mental health Legal Aid over the last six years (Tables 1 and 4, and para 21).
- 26/03/11: Official Solicitor, 'Proposals for the reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales: Ministry of Justice consultation paper CP 12/10: Response of the Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts' (10/2/11).
- 26/03/11: LSC, 'Bank statements needed for funding applications' (CLS News, 3/2/11). All MEANS1 forms dated on or after 15/12/10 must be accompanied by bank statements covering the last three months for each account held by the client or his partner. From 14/3/11 the LSC will reject all non-emergency applications in breach of this requirement.
- 25/03/11: LSC, 'Community Legal Advice and LSC websites – latest news' (CLS News, 23/3/11). The CLA (Community Legal Advice) and LSRC (Legal Services Research Centre, the independent research division of the LSC) websites will be closed and their content moved to the justice.gov.uk and direct.gov.uk websites on 6/4/11. The LSC website will be incorporated into the justice.gov.uk website later in 2011.
- 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  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.
- 23/03/11: On 20/2/11 the LSC published an updated tender outcome document for the SHA procurement areas.
- 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.
- 09/12/10: LSC news item 'Civil legal aid, bank statements and wage slips' published on 7/12/10. A reminder that in some circumstances, bank statements and wage slips are required for Legal Representation.
- 03/12/10: The LSC published their Annual Report and Accounts for 2009-10 on 30/11/10.
- 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.
- 22/11/10: On 21/10/10 version 8 of 'RM Assurance Process: Guidance for RM Visits' was published. See August news item below for information.
- 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.
- 13/11/10: On 12/11/10 the LSC published Forms Version List October 2010 (including forms for 15/11/10 onwards).
- 11/11/10: CLS News: Financial eligibility - changes to evidence rules from 15 November - 11/11/10 - Wage slips and bank statements must accompany form CLS MEANS1 where appropriate
- 11/11/10: CLS News: 2010 Standard Civil Contract documentation now sent out - 11/11/10
- 11/11/10: CLS News: New home for LSC websites - 10/11/10 - All information on Legal Aid websites will be moved to either the MoJ or Directgov website by March 2011
- 11/11/10: Catherine Baksi, 'New legal aid court challenge set to proceed', Law Society Gazette 8/11/10 - The claimants, who challenged the selection criteria for the high-secure-hospital contract and the verification process for both contracts, failed to obtain injunction delaying implementation of mental health contracts but obtained protective costs order set at £100,000.
- 11/11/10: Guidance on Completing Civil Supervisor Self Declaration Forms - filename dated 4/11/10, document dated 5/11/10, published 8/11/10, marked version 4
- 11/11/10: Where work is processed - updated November 2010
- 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.
- 18/10/10: CLS News: Important update on civil contracts - 13/10/10 - Confirmation that all non-family legal aid contracts and family mediation contracts will start on 15/11/10.
- 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."
- Unified Contract Extension Guidance - 20/9/10 - This guidance explains the one-month extension to civil legal aid contracts
- CLS News: Law Society Judicial Review of family tender - 6/9/10 - Current contracts will now expire on Sunday 14/11/10; new contracts will commence on 15/11/10; current contact holders will receive an additional 1/12 of their matter start allocation.
- 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.
- Civil Contract 2010 Verification: Frequently Asked Questions - published on 23/8/10
- 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:
- On 8/7/10 the LSC published the 2010 category definitions and related guidance. See #Category definition below.
- 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: Important update on timetable for the mental health tender process - 28/5/10 - The outcome of the mental health tender process will be announced by 7/6/10 via the E-tendering portal.
- 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: Customer satisfaction survey - 23/4/10 - Help to write the LSC's epitaph
- 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."
- See Consultations#Ministry of Justice (Legal Aid: refocusing on priority cases) for further details
- CLS News: Transfer of civil applications processing from Nottingham to Merseyside - 16/3/10 - From 1/4/10 all civil application processing will be transferred from Nottingham to the Merseyside regional office
- CLS News: 2010 contracts tender process - 10/3/10 - The automated email this morning was incorrect: the mental health PQQ deadline is 12 noon on 31/3/10.
- 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.
- Response to the above news: Law Society: Legal aid lawyers pay the price of LSC's mismanagement - 9/3/10
- Notice to Mental Health Applicant Organisations - 8/3/10 - Paragraph 7.12 (information about payments on account) of the Information For Applicants has been amended so as to accord with the 2010 Civil Contract.
- New schedules for April to October 2010 - 3/3/10 - How matter starts will be allocated to cover the period 1/4/10 to 13/10/10
- Sir Ian Magee’s review into the delivery of legal aid - 3/3/10 - Also a press release setting out LSC's move from being a executive non-departmental public body to becoming an executive agency
- Law Society Practice Note: Legal Aid contract 2010: Civil, 8/2/10 - Summary of the main changes to the Legal Aid contract 2010 and the tendering process
- Mental Health tender process opens shortly, 4/2/10 - Reminder that the tender process, for work from 14/10/10, runs from 10/2/10 for 7 weeks, and the procurement plan has been published
- Legal help financial eligibility – advice for providers, 2/2/10 - Advice on means evidence required for audit purposes
- House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts: The procurement of legal aid in England and Wales by the Legal Services Commission: Ninth Report of Session 2009–10 - 2/2/10 - a critical examination of the procurement and administration of legal aid in England and Wales
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org for civil legal, email@example.com for finance, means-enquiries for means queries)
- LSC releases update to 'Improving your Quality' guide 23-11-2009 - New edition of ‘Improving your Quality’ guide on mental health
- Mental health work moving to our Merseyside office 23-11-2009 - Work to be transferred from Nottingham at the end of November 2009
- 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 ‘Improving your Quality’ generic guide launched 09-11-2009 - On 6/11/09 the LSC published a new generic (not specific to any category of law) "Improving Your Quality" peer review guidance document.
- Civil bid rounds for 2010 contracts - Q&A available, 29-10-2009 - "All questions submitted by Friday 6 November will be answered in a final version of the Q&A document to be published on Friday 13 November." Version 10 of the Q&A is dated 30/10/09.
- Tendering timetable: 2010 civil and crime legal aid contracts, 21-10-2009 - The new civil legal aid contract will come into effect on 1 October 2010. The bid round for non-immigration civil work is planned for the week beginning 8 February 2010, and will be open for seven weeks.
- 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 2010
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.
Firms awarded Legal Aid contracts from 2014
Extension of contract
- Legal Aid Agency, 'Headline Intentions for alignment of civil face to face contracts in 2018' (5/11/15)†. In order to bring all face-to-face civil contracts (except mediation) to the same start date, the LAA plan to extend some contracts (including mental health) to 31/3/18 and to end others (including public law) early on the same date.
Details of tender process
This section contains information about the tender process for the 2014 contract
The tender process closed at noon on 25/4/14 and the new contract starts on 1/8/14. All advocates, except external counsel, appearing before the Mental Health Tribunal must be members of the Law Society’s mental health accreditation scheme.
- Vicky Ling, 'Mental Health, Public Law, Actions Against the Police etc., Clinical Negligence, Community Care Contracts – What’s happening?' (Legal Aid Handbook Blog, 21/10/13)
- Legal Aid Agency, 'Headline intentions for tenders for remaining categories operating under the Standard Civil Contract 2010 ' (29/11/13)†
- (1) In the mental health and community care categories, the existing 2010 contract will be extended to 31/7/14, and the proposed timetable for the new contract is as follows: (a) PQQ and ITTs open, mid-Feb; (b) PQQ and ITTs close, mid-March; (c) notification of outcome, late-April; (d) verification process, May to late-June; (e) issue contracts, July; (f) contract start, 1/8/14.
- (2) All organisations meeting the tender requirements will be awarded a contract. Matter starts will be awarded based on lots (details of which have not yet been published). Those bidding in the smaller lots will be guaranteed what they bid for (with the ability to self-grant 50% extra). Those bidding in the highest lot may need to meet additional requirements; they will be allocated the minimum number in that lot, plus whatever matter starts remain after allocation of the guaranteed matter starts.
- (3) In mental health, all representatives before the Mental Health Tribunal must be accredited under the Law Society's mental health accreditation scheme. In community care, it will no longer be possible to qualify as a supervisor via the housing route, and licensed work will no longer be able to be done under tolerance. In both categories an authorised litigator (usually a solicitor or barrister: see Legal Services Act 2007) must be employed.
- (4) Details for other 2010 categories (including public law) will follow, but the intention is to extend the contract to 31/10/15, and tender from late-2014 with contracts starting on 1/11/15.
- Legal Aid Agency, 'Further information on forthcoming Mental Health and Community Care tender process' (30/1/14) (PDF)†
- Legal Aid Agency: 'Civil face to face contracts from August 2014' page. This page contains documents relating to the tendering process for mental health and community care contracts which runs from 25/2/14 to noon on 25/3/14.
- Legal Aid Agency, 'Notification of the outcome of the tender process for Contracts to deliver face-to-face Community Care and Mental Health Services in England and Wales from 1 August 2014' (12/5/14). On the week commencing 12/5/14 the LAA will begin to notify applicants of the tender outcomes for mental health and community care. Community care applicants, and mental health failures will be notified first, with other mental health applicants informed a few days later. A separate letter will be sent for each individual bid, detailing the assessment outcome, and requesting any outstanding information for tender verification before contract documentation is issued.
- This week (week beginning 12 May 2014) we will start to notify Applicant Organisations of the outcome of the tender process for Contracts to deliver face-to-face Community Care and Mental Health Services in England and Wales from 1 August 2014.
- Applicant Organisations that tendered for Community Care Contracts as well as any Applicant Organisation assessed as failing the Mental Health tender process will be notified first towards the start of the week. Notifications of all other Mental Health tender outcomes will then follow a few days later.
A separate letter, detailing the outcome of assessment, will be sent for each Individual Bid an Applicant Organisation has submitted. Letters will include a request for any outstanding information required to verify an Applicant Organisation’s Tender ahead of contract documentation being issued.
- Where an Applicant Organisation has been unsuccessful, rights of appeal are limited and set out at paragraph 10.33 of the Information for Applicants (IFA) document. Details of how to submit an appeal will be included in notification letters sent to unsuccessful Applicant Organisations. If you have been unsuccessful and consider that a right of appeal applies and you wish to appeal you must use the appeals pro forma found in the ‘Tender Documentation’ section of this webpage below.
- Legal Aid Agency, 'Community care and mental health contract documents' (17/7/14)†. From 21/7/14 the LAA will (1) issue contract documentation to those who have completed verification and (2) notify those who have not completed verification what information is outstanding and when it is required.