LAA requests verification for Crime Own Client Contracts

On 25 November 2015, the LAA started requesting verification for those offered an Own Client Crime Contract.  There is an imminent deadline of 8 December 2015 to be aware of.

Firstly, all those who bid for an ‘own client contract’ are being asked now to verify their tender.  This applies equally to all bidders including those who bid for a duty contract (whether successful or not) and those who didn’t bid for duty contracts.

Existing 2010 Standard Crime Contract holders

This section is relevant to existing Crime legal aid firms.  Please see below for new start-ups or those new to legal aid crime.

You should now have responded to the LAA’s notice regarding the extension of the 2010 Contract until 31 March 2016.  You can continue to providing Crime services pursuant to your existing contract until then.

The verification you now need to provide relates to crime services from 1 April 2016.

You need to provide the following verification:

  • You will need to submit details of your main office address (the requirement is for at least one office address in England and Wales).  If you have more than office, you can submit details of your head office or one of your offices you will provide crime services.  You may wish to provide details of all offices.  If you have this information available then we would suggest providing it.
  • Confirm your LAA account number(s) for the office(s) confirmed above.  If you are opening a new office then you need to complete an AC1 form to obtain a LAA account number for that office.  This can be sent to your LAA account manager or by post to Andrea Wintle at the Legal Aid Agency, Fothergill House 16 King Street Nottingham NG1 2AS.  The form can be downloaded here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/424898/ac1-form.doc
  • Confirm your firm’s SRA number.

(if you have more than one supervisor then you may submit as many forms as you want but you don’t need to).

  • Proof that you have been audited against the Lexcel Standard or SQM.  You will need to submit your current audit certificate.
  • Confirmation that you at least one operational secure email account.  You will therefore need to submit your CJSM email address.    If you haven’t set this up then follow the instructions on this link: https://www.cjsm.net/

NB – for those who bid for duty contracts

Those firms who were successful in the duty tender may have already been asked to provide some of the above verification already.  You will only need to provide the remaining documentation (i.e. that which hasn’t already been provided by you) by the deadline.  This is likely to be just the supervisor forms and secure email address.

The LAA is not seeking confirmation of your supervisors for the duty contracts.  You do not therefore have to provide supervisor forms for all of the supervisors listed in your duty bids at this time.  The LAA will need to verify the duty contracts in due course but this current request is only for verification of own client contracts and the requirement is simply to have at least ‘one’ FTE supervisor for the practice.

For entities new to Crime (i.e. those who do not have a current 2010 Contract) or new start-ups

If you do not hold a current 2010 Contract then you need to provide the following verification:

  • You will need to submit details of an office address (the requirement is for at least one office address in England and Wales).
  • You need to confirm that your firm is or has been authorised by the SRA.  You will therefore need to submit your firm’s SRA number.  If you have submitted an application to the SRA but not yet received confirmation of authorisation, you may like to contact the SRA to determine if there is any possibility of them expediting their confirmation of their decision on your application.
  • If you operate as a limited company, LLP or other corporate entity, you must send a signed indemnity agreement. If you are a sole trader or partnership you don’t need to provide this.  If you haven’t yet obtained the LAA Account number then do not hold off from completing this indemnity form – simply indicate, where relevant on page one, that the account number has yet to be issued.  See this webpage for the different forms (dependent on the different type of entity) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-guarantee-and-indemnity
  • Proof that you have been audited against the Lexcel or SQM Standard.  You need to submit your Lexcel or SQM certificate.  For new start-ups, you need only have passed the SQM desktop at this stage.  You will need to submit confirmation from the SQM Delivery Partnership that you have passed the Desktop audit.
  • Confirmation that you at least one operational secure email account, which must:  (i) be able to send and receive emails, which may contain sensitive information, over the Government Secure Intranet; and  (ii) be used by you as the address by which the criminal justice agencies (including prosecution and police) serve or make available evidence and communicate electronically with you as set out at paragraph 7.16(j) of the 2015 Own Client Contract, Standard Terms.  You will therefore need to submit a CJSM email address.    If you haven’t set this up then follow the instructions on this link: https://www.cjsm.net/

Deadlines & Timings

So when do you need to do all this by?  It depends on your circumstances.

Existing 2010 Contract holders:

Where there has been no challenge to duty contracts in some procurement areas (in other words, they are deemed viable), the LAA is intending still to enter into duty contracts in those areas on 1 April.  The LAA are however making contingency plans in the event that the current litigation prevents them from entering into duty contracts in some areas on 1 April 2016. In procurement areas where it is not deemed viable to commence duty contracts in April, the LAA says it will produce contingency duty rotas to ensure the necessary duty provider coverage and will do this by allocating duty work to organisations who have signed Own Client Contracts.  This is anticipated as being a short term measure only by the LAA as they will run these rotas only until they can enter into duty contracts in those areas.

If you wish to be included on a contingency duty rota from 1 April, the LAA say that you must submit your verification information by 23:59 on Tuesday 8 December 2015.

If you cannot submit the above verification by 8 December then you probably won’t be eligible for the contingency rota.   In this case, you should look to simply submit it as soon as you are able ((but definitely by the final deadline – see below).

If you had not planned on duty work – for instance, you had not submitted a bid for a duty contract and had planned accordingly – then you may be less concerned about the contingency duty arrangements.    If you are not concerned about being included on the contingency rota from 1 April or you cannot provide the verification by 8 December then you may submit your verification information by a later date.  By the terms of the IFA, you must provide the verification information at least 6 weeks before the Service Commencement Date.  With the Service Commencement Date currently confirmed to be 1 April 2016, the date you should be aiming for in terms of submission of the verification information is 19 February 2016.   The final deadline however is confirmed as being 23:59 on 29 February 2016 because the LAA has confirmed that it “cannot guarantee to issue Own Client Contract documentation in time for the 1 April 2016 contract start date” where verification information is submitted after that date.  We would strongly advise against leaving it until the very last minute!

Firms without an existing 2010 Contract:

Organisations that have been offered a 2015 Own Client crime contract but do not hold a 2010 Standard Crime Contract will now have the opportunity to undertake own client work between 11 January 2016 and 31 March 2016.

If firms want to start work from 11 January 2016, they must provide all of the above verification by 23:59 on Tuesday 8 December 2015.  You will be offered a contingency contract to undertake own client work from 11 January to 31 March 2016.  Your Own Client Contract will then be issued on 1 April 2016.  NB If you want to be offered this contingency contract, you must state this when submitting your verification.

If you cannot provide all of the above verification by that date, you cannot apply for the contingency contract.  As set out above, the date you should be aiming for in terms of submission of the verification information is 19 February 2016 (with an absolute final deadline of 29 February 2016).  Your own client contract will then start on 1 April 2016 and you may provide services from that date.

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