Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Social welfare law success

Birmingham-based social welfare law (SWL) firm, Community Law Partnership (CLP), has today heard that it has been granted a contract by the Legal Services Commission (LSC), after originally being turned down for one last month. The LSC has also confirmed that all civil contracts will now be extended to Sunday 14 November (see yesterday's blog). Providers will receive an additional twelfth of their new matter starts allocation to cover this.

CLP had appealed against the decision not to award a contract, but the LSC still refused to grant it one. CLP then brought judicial review proceedings against the LSC arguing that one of the selection criteria for the contracts was unfair. At an initial hearing the judge, Mr Justice Collins, said, 'I am bound to say this is a dreadful decision and on the face of it the approach [taken by the LSC] is totally irrational'. He hinted that at the full hearing, which was listed for 8 September, he would be likely to find against the LSC as he believed it was unfair to use a selection criterion linked to experience in appeals to the higher tribunal in benefits cases. CLP had argued that it did not need to take many of these cases as it generally wins its clients' cases at the lower tribunal.

LAG understands that some legal aid providers in Birmingham might have overbid for work and have now agreed to accept smaller contracts. This released cash to grant a contract to CLP. It would have been a travesty if CLP, with its excellent track record, had not continued to provide legal aid. This demonstrates that seemingly fair selection criteria can throw up some perverse results.

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