The Ministry of Justice has given notice of its intention to procure, in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, a dedicated mediation service to engage with housing progression claims as they progress through court.
It is anticipated the contract will be for a period of approximately six months, at which time the evaluation of the pilot will determine next steps.
In the prior information notice, the MoJ said: “In March 2020, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, all ongoing housing possession cases were suspended, originally for 90 days. Following agreed extensions, no possession proceedings were continued or commenced between 27 March and 21 September 2020. The suspension affected existing possession cases and cases that would have been commenced in the period. A range of measures have helped manage the volume coming through the system, but this may still be 40,000 or more (perhaps considerably more) over 6 months.
“Now, with the resumption of cases in the courts, MOJ are looking to procure and pilot a dedicated mediation service to engage with housing possession claims as they progress through court, and facilitate settlement without a substantive hearing where possible. This service aims to help further promote compromise to the benefit of all parties, sustain tenancies and manage capacity in the court system.”
The Ministry said the supplier would be responsible for sourcing, training and managing a bank of suitable mediators with the skills and knowledge and experience to be stipulated in the tender documents.
It added that it required a supplier “who can quickly mobilise and provide a high quality value for money national service able to cope with the anticipated demand and within specified time frames”.
The MoJ said the pilot would “complement and must integrate with the other measures, put in place following engagement with the judiciary, legal sector, agencies, and housing sector stakeholders for the resumption of possession cases, to enable earlier advice, increase settlement, take account of the effects of the pandemic, and maintain confidence in the fairness of outcomes. This includes the safe, fair, and efficient progress of possession cases through the courts where they need to be before the courts.”
The MoJ plans, “due to the urgency of this requirement”, to procure this service through use of the Accelerated Open Procedures.
The planned timetable (subject to change) is:
- ItT issue 23 November 2020
- bids received deadline 8 December 2020
- contract award letters issued (standstill starts) 31 December 2020
- contract start date 11 January 2021.