Is mental health tendering scheme a success story?

first_img Richard Charlton, Chair, Mental Health Lawyers Association, London Hugh Barrett (see letter) states that the tendering scheme in mental health was a success. The highly vulnerable clients we represent will often not see it that way. The key to success in the new tendering process was to bid as high as possible and then to accept the apportioned result. Thus, I could have (but did not) bid for all 9,940 matter starts in London, where the proportion of matters allocated was around a third requested – the result being that I would have had a good slice of the cake at around 3,000 and would now go about recruiting additional staff accordingly. If I had simply bid for work in line with my existing matter starts of, say, 600, I would be left with 200; with the result that either I go out of business or cannot represent many of my existing clients. The same factors would work against a new firm that had also bid realistically. This is not, therefore, an argument about opposing new firms going into this area of law. It is about a chaotic tendering system that discriminates against those who have realistically indicated the amount of proper work they can carry out. The exercise has encouraged a frantic scramble for new staff among those who have played the ‘winning numbers’ game with the Legal Services Commission. The outcome will disenfranchise many mental health clients from accessing quality lawyers of their choice, including many highly experienced lawyers who will simply not be allowed or able to do the work. Such clients are likely to see this as a failure rather than a success.last_img read more

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Government rethinks TUPE stance

first_imgThe coalition government has scrapped plans to reform controversial employment regulations in an apparent U-turn by the Conservatives, it has emerged. Mark Hammerton, employment partner at national firm Eversheds, said Lord Hunt, now energy minister, had suggested before the election that a Conservative government would seek to ‘rein in’ aspects of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 which cover service provision changes. Under the regulations, law firms or other companies that win contracts from rival firms can be obliged to take on employees from the competitor firm, or pay them compensation if they are made redundant because their employer lost the contract. Hammerton said Hunt had suggested before the election that the UK regulations may exceed what is required under EU law. However, Ed Davey, minister at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), told parliament this month that the government has no plans to revise the TUPE regulations. Hammerton said: ‘Employers will be disappointed that there are no planned changes to the TUPE regulations. The initial intention of the legislation was not to protect service provision changes, such as one law firm winning a contract from another in an open tender. It was intended for when a business is sold or otherwise acquired in its entirety. A review of the regulations is needed to add clarity to an increasingly fragmented piece of legislation.’ Gordon Turner, founding partner of London firm Partners Employment Lawyers, said: ‘We are glad TUPE has been retained, but the government has missed an opportunity to fine tune it. There is an element of “blind date” in a process that permits employees from one company to be herded across into an alien culture at another company. The regulations purport to do good by employees, but there is an argument they would be better served by being made redundant and getting on with their lives.’ A BIS spokesman confirmed that the government had ‘no current plans’ to amend TUPE regulations.last_img read more

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Does the legal profession need to have minimum trainee rates?

first_imgTo paraphrase the author John O’Farrell, those in charge of society have always shown imagination in thinking of reasons why relatively poor people should work harder for less. So there is neat symmetry in the SRA’s decision to flag the likely abolition of the minimum trainee salary in the same month that a 22-year-old graduate launched a legal challenge over being obliged to do forced labour or lose benefits. The uncomfortable truth though is that the SRA’s reasoning appears sound. There is no credible regulatory justification for retaining the 30-year-old policy – unless, if we might be facetious for a moment, you admit the possibility that having to sleep in a cardboard box might affect the quality of a trainee’s work. (In reality, of course, trainees will still be eligible for the minimum wage.) The policy was designed to protect trainees from being exploited and encourage a high calibre of graduates to enter the profession. But in the present environment of ample supply, the latter imperative has ceased to be relevant. And in respect of exploitation, any number of other professions and trades don’t set minimum trainee pay rates, so why are lawyers special? The best argument in favour of retention seems to be that of fostering diversity – the regulator having admitted it is ‘not clear’ whether the policy has improved access to the profession. Before any decision is taken, perhaps some proper research is required to find out.last_img read more

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Bring back Green forms

first_imgThose of us of a certain age will remember ‘Green’ forms. They covered legal advice and meant that virtually anyone could get advice on anything, from any solicitor, if they could not pay for it. You filled in the client’s means on the front and you had something called a keycard which I think was pink or lilac to work out if they were entitled to free advice. At the end of case you wrote brief details of the work done and sent them off every month with a consolidated claim form, which was a buff yellow (how colourful the law was!), listing all the green forms. You had to keep a copy of them as the Legal Aid Board would just pay you the total. Sometimes they would reject one or several and not tell you which. You had to work out with the firm’s bookkeeper which had been paid and which had not. Hours of harmless fun. My point is that specialisation has been a good thing because the Legal Services Commission wants value for money but it may have gone too far. Many legal aid areas are highly technical and need lawyers who know the ropes. The clients are often vulnerable. Basic advice usually meant a few letters and meetings. However, the profession has lost the ability to give basic advice to people who need it and cannot pay for it. This is particularly clear in areas like where I practise such as small market towns with limited numbers of lawyers who offer legal aid. Specialists are few and far between. Most clients struggle to come from the streets around Aylesbury let alone are willing to get the bus to Luton or Oxford to get specialist help. The not-for-profit sector has not been able to bridge this gap. They are facing similar funding cuts to lawyers. There are less benefit, housing and debt advisers. I was at a hearing recently in the West Midlands and the person before the tribunal had some debt problems. Nothing serious to you or me, except they were very vulnerable and demands from debt collectors are frightening. It just needed a few letters and the help to complete a budget form. When I asked about debt advisors or any advisors the social worker looked blank and explained there were none. So bring back the green form. I do not even care what colour it is this time. David Pickup is a partner in Aylesbury based Pickup & Scottlast_img read more

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Good practice vs Dracula

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

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Home truths

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Hansom

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

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Hansom

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

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Building buys a pint

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A risky game

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