Legal Aid Tenders
There will be new legal aid contracts, covering the period 2013 to 2016 from 1 April 2013. These will be in asylum only, as there will no longer be legal aid for immigration. Contracts allocate firms and organisations a fixed number of initial cases (applications to the UK Border Agency) although there are no limits on the number of cases that they can do in the higher courts, such as judicial reviews. Lots of firms bid for contracts and cases have been allocated evenly to successful bidders, which means that most firms have been allocated only about 100 initial cases, regardless of size. The tender process did not do much to differentiate between those who bid on the grounds of ‘quality and therefore most of those who bid got a contract. It will be difficult to survive on such small contracts, especially for big firms and it is anticipated that it will get harder to find a legal aid representative for an asylum field case.
The Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013 were made on 22 January 2013 and come into force on 1 April 2013. The regulations set out in which circumstances a case will be considered strong enough to qualify for legal aid. There is also a “means” test – if people have more than the permitted levels of income or savings they will not be eligible for legal aid