The Legal Services Commission has announced that schedules for the period January to November 2011 will allow family legal aid providers to undertake the same level of work as has previously been undertaken.
Schedules for family legal aid providers will be based on their individual historic usage of new matter starts. This means that overall the LSC will allocate the same number of new matter starts as were used by providers last year - 269,000 in total.
The LSC said that the 100% award was made after consultation with representative bodies to give family legal aid providers certainty regarding their workflow for the months ahead.
In November last year, the LSC announced the extension family and combined family/housing legal aid contracts until midnight on 30 November 2011.
Looking beyond November, the LSC is awaiting the outcome of Ministry of Justice's Legal Aid Reform consultation in order to inform next steps in relation to family contracts. However, whilst there is some provision to extend contracts further beyond 30 November 2011, this provision is limited and as such, the LSC says it is "highly likely" that they will be retendering for family services within the next year.
In September last year the Law Society successfully applied to the High Court to quash the outcome of the family tender round for new legal aid contracts. The Law Society brought the judicial review after the tender round of family contracts cut the number of firms able to do legal aid work by 46%.
The High Court ruled that the LSC it breached procurement law by failing to give advance notice of the requirement for panel membership. The court quashed the contracts in four categories of practice: family; housing and family; children only; and child abduction.