The Legal Services Commission has announced details about its planned approach to procuring new face to face family contracts after the closure of its consultation on the subject.
Following the successful judicial review brought by the Law Society it was not possible for the LSC to introduce the Standard Civil Contract in the family category and instead the Unified Contract for Family was extended. This extension expires on 30 November 2011.
The LSC are seeking to implement a new contract with representative bodies for the delivery of family services commencing in February 2012 and intend to further extend the current Unified Contract for family until then.
The LSC has now confirmed that it will be allowing a four week period for providers to complete the tender using their e-tendering system. The planned timetable is:
Following a review of the responses from the consultation, the LSC has also announced that the supervisor to caseworker ratio will be 1:4. This is the ratio which was preferred by the majority of respondents.
The consultation responses suggested that providers should not be required to undertake the full range of private law work and that this would cause particular problems for firms which specialised in children work. The LSC has decided it will therefore not be requiring providers to undertake the full range of work. Consequently there will be no need to distinguish between public and private family law work in relation to matter starts and successful tenderers will simply receive a contract to undertake any family work (with the exception of child abduction work which is subject to a separate tender exercise).
Tender documentation, including the Information for Applicants document, will be published on the LSC website when the tender process opens on 5 September.
Last year the LSC was strongly criticised by the Law Society and practitioners for its handling of the tender process. The chief executive of the Law Society's, Des Hudson, wrote to the LSC after it emerged that almost half of the firms tendering for legal aid family contracts were turned down. The tender process led to the judicial review brought by the Law Society.