Tender: amendments to the IFA

Since the Information for Applicants (IFA) has been launched, we have received several queries about the meaning of one of the selection criterion, writes David Gilmore.

This was the criterion about full time equivalent supervisors. The criterion (A.3) is:

‘By the contract start date will each of the applicant organisation’s offices from which it is tendering to deliver family services employ at least one Full Time Equivalent (FTE) supervisor (who meets the family supervisor standard and will actively supervise the family services tendered for) for every four employed FTE caseworkers?’

A similarly worded criterion appears in both the Housing & Debt and Immigration & Asylum ITTs.

So does this mean that a supervisor can supervise only one office or could they supervise two offices by spending 17.5 hours at each office? Perhaps if the supervisor was supervising only two staff at each office, this would be OK? Is the key phrase here ‘FTE’ thus allowing a supervisor to work part time at two offices?

It could be read two ways but our view is that the LSC does indeed mean that a supervisor may supervise more than office provided that the 1:4 supervisor to caseworker ratio is satisfied.

The LSC has realised that there was an issue and replaced the invitation to tender with a version 2. Subsequently, the LSC sent out messages on the Bravo portal to say that any tenders submitted would now be invalid and would need to be completed again.

Problem solved? Almost but what the LSC has actually is changed is a different criterion. This is A.2.

Previously A.2 stated (Family category):

‘By the Contract Start Date will each of the applicant organisation’s offices from which it is tendering to deliver family services employ at least one FTE supervisor who meets the family supervisor standard and will actively supervise the family services tendered for?’

Now, in version 2, of the IFA A.2 states:

‘By the contract start date will the applicant organisation employ at least one FTE supervisor who meets the family supervisor standard and will actively supervise the family services tendered for?’

What the LSC have done is to change A.2 to match the wording in Paragraph 5.2 of the IFA. Previously the earlier version of the IFA contradicted itself by having different wording in Annex A (the selection criteria) compared with the wording in Paragraph 5.2.

The issue remains that providers are still unsure whether a supervisor may cover more than office as the wording in A.3 remains as before.

However, we are confident that so long as the criteria and tender requirements can be met, an organisation would be able to use the same staff member to work across more than one office. For example, a supervisor at an applicant organisation could work 17.5 hours in one Office at which they supervise the work of 2 FTE staff and 17.5 hours at another Office at which the work of a further 2 FTE staff is supervised.

Bidding
Some providers that wish to maximise the number of matter starts will overbid.

This strategy will not work this time because a pro-rata method of allocation is not being used in this tender round. The LSC is guaranteeing that each office that makes a successful bid will receive:

At least 100 NMS (or the level of your bid if lower) in the housing and debt and the immigrationand asylum categories

At least 61 NMS (or the level of your bid if lower) in the Family category

Where competition is high, I predict that each office will end up receiving the numbers indicated above. Therefore, if you need more matter starts, the best way of achieving that aim is to open additional offices.

Qualifying as a supervisor
Sole practitioners who do not supervise any caseworkers have been asking whether they really need to go on a supervision course again after having only attended a course last year?

In the draft contract specification at 2.18, you are required to meet one of the following supervisory skills standards:

  1. has supervised in the relevant category of law at least one full time caseworker (or equivalent) for at least one year in the five year period prior to such person undertaking contract work as a Supervisor;
  2. completed training covering key supervisory skills that we approve from time to time no earlier than 12 months prior to the contract start date;
  3. completed the level 3 or higher National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) standard (or any replacement from time to time) in supervising no earlier than five years prior to the contract start date.

So, if you are a sole practitioner with no caseworkers  and you have not supervised caseworkers in the past five years, you must attend a course. (Of course I am assuming that sole practitioners do not hold a Level 3 NVQ in supervising as I have never met one). The wording in the current supervisor self-declaration form is different (naturally!) but is very similar and states that you must have: ‘completed an approved training course covering key supervisory skills no earlier than 12 months prior to the completion of this form’.

If the supervisor is say a sole practitioner, then literally this would mean that the supervisor must attend a supervisor training course every time a new contract starts despite not having any caseworkers to supervise! In December 2011, I ran a supervision course and many of those attending were sole practitioners. Do they really have to attend another supervisor course less than 12 months later in order to continue to meet the supervision requirements?

This will have to be the subject of a FAQ.

A sample of other queries that we have received:

We have received a contract termination letter? Do we need to do anything?
No, this is a standard letter that has been sent to all providers. The current contracts expire in October next year so the LSC had to provide 6 months’ notice (as per the contract standard terms) to everyone in order to implement the legal aid reforms (and this tender) in time for April 2013.

We have been invited to bid in categories in which we have no interest. Why?
A successful PQQ triggers the right to bid for a contract in family, debt and housing, and immigration and asylum.

Where is the LSC website page that confirms what stays in scope?
HERE

Is there any requirement for Children Panel membership?
Children panel membership is not mandatory but is one of the panels that the LSC accept in their supervisor declaration form. See HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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