Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme: Towards a more sustainable service - Law Society response

We responded to the Ministry of Justice consultation on making the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme more sustainable.

The Proposals

  • There should be separate tenders for individual courts
  • The use of agents should continue to be permitted
  • The current ‘nil session fee’ should be replaced with an attendance fee equivalent to the fee payable had the provider seen two clients
  • Providers should be allowed to claim the Scheme fee in addition to the fee for any Legal Help follow up work
  • Reasonable travel costs can be factored into the bid but on a price competitive basis

Our view

We welcome the MoJ’s intention to improve the sustainability of the HPCDS scheme, but whilst we generally agree with most of the consultation proposals, we are concerned that the consultation fails to address the fundamental issues of sustainability which are:
  • HPCDS sustainability issues cannot be properly resolved without addressing the serious sustainability issues affecting the Housing and Debt legal aid contracts which are a prerequisite for obtaining an HPCDS contract.
  • The HPCDS fees are too low and are not commercially viable
  • The uncertainty created by the HMCTS court closure programme which means that some schemes will disappear and remaining schemes will be impacted by closures of neighbouring courts
In terms of the specific consultation proposals we made the following points:
  • We agree with tenders for individual courts
  • We agree that agents should be continue to be permitted as this provides some flexibility for dealing with variations in volume. We also argue that joint bids should be permitted
  • We argue that the proposed attendance fee should be equivalent to the fee payable had the provider seen three clients rather than two as proposed
  • We agree with the proposal that allows the scheme fee to be claimed as well as the Legal Help fee for follow up work
  • We have said that travel costs must include a fee for travel time as well as travel disbursements but we oppose the proposal that travel costs should be tendered on a price competitive basis. We think this introduces unnecessary complexity to the tender process and that if the aim is to encourage local providers, this can be achieved by other means

Next Steps

The consultation closed on 3 January and we await the MoJ’s response

Read the consultation on the MoJ website