Legal Aid Scheme

Justice written question – answered on 5th September 2013.

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Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey Liberal Democrat, North Devon

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice

(1) where the providers awarded contracts under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to provide face-to-face legal aid services in the South West from April 2013 are based;

(2) which providers awarded contracts by the Legal Services Commission to supply face-to-face legal aid services from April 2013 under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 have not yet opened a permanent office in the procurement area;

(3) what steps his Department will take to ensure that each organisation awarded a contract to provide face-to-face legal aid services maintains a permanent presence in the procurement area.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) splits England and Wales into Procurement Areas and, where necessary, Access Points, in order to ensure services are available locally. There are different Procurement Areas and Access Points for the different categories of law. The tender for face-to-face legal aid services from April 2013 covered the categories of Immigration and Asylum, Housing and Debt, and Family.

As a result of the tender there is at least one provider office in each Procurement Area or Access Point in the South West in each category of law except for Housing and Debt in Dorset, which the LAA is currently working to resolve and in the interim clients can access advice over the phone and face-to-face services are available in neighbouring areas. A summary of offices per Procurement Area and Access Point in the south-west can be found in the Annex. The full list of providers can be found on the Justice website.

It was a requirement of the tender for face-to-face legal aid services from April 2013 that all providers had an office with a permanent presence in the Procurement Area(s) or Access Point(s) in which they bid by the Contract Start Date (1 April 2013). The LAA confirmed that each organisation successful in the tender met this requirement prior to the issue of contract documentation.

The LAA visits providers throughout the life of a contract to ensure the terms of the contract are being met. Following the tender process, visits have been prioritised to organisations that opened new offices to ensure they meet the LAA's definition of permanent presence. Should an organisation's office be found not to be a permanent presence, the LAA will terminate their contract for that office and, if necessary to maintain access in the Procurement Area or Access Point, take action such as authorising providers in other areas to undertake outreach, undertaking an expressions of interest exercise for the work or running interim tender activity.

Annex—Summary of provider offices in the South West

Offices providing Family legal aid services in the South West
Procurement Area Number of offices Access Point Number of offices
Bournemouth and Poole 19 n/a 19
       
City of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset 33 City of Bristol 21
    South Gloucestershire and North Somerset 12
       
City of Plymouth 10 n/a 10
       
Cornwall 21 Central Cornwall 9
    North and East Cornwall 6
    West Cornwall 6
       
Devon 46 East, Mid, North and West Devon, Torridge 19
    Exeter 16
    South Hams, Teignbridge, Torbay 11
       
Dorset 15 East Dorset 4
    West Dorset 11
       
Gloucestershire 18 East Gloucestershire 4
    West Gloucestershire 14
       
Somerset 24 BANES and Mendip 7
    Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Dean and West Somerset 17
       
Wiltshire 17 Rest of Wiltshire 10
    Swindon 7
Total 203 203
Offices providing Immigration and Asylum legal aid services in the South West
Procurement Area Access Point Number of offices
South West England City of Bristol, Gloucestershire and North Somerset 9
South West England City of Plymouth and Devon 2
Total 11
Offices providing Housing and Debt legal aid services in the South West
Procurement Area Number of offices
Bournemouth and Poole 2
City of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset 7
City of Plymouth 1
Cornwall 3
Devon 5
Dorset 0
Gloucestershire 2
Somerset 2
Wiltshire 5
Total 27

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