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Responses to recent media enquiries

LAO Newsroom

LAO Letter to the Editor The Guelph Mercury

May 26, 2010


Re - Closing carries a heavy price

I would like to provide some additional background information and clarify a few issues raised in the commentary Closing carries a heavy price that appeared in the Guelph Mercury on May 17, 2010.

LAO is committed to ensure that clients and stakeholders are aware of the changes we are making to how we deliver services. LAO sent a press release to all major media outlets in Guelph, including the Guelph Mercury, on February 18th, 2010 describing the coming changes in legal aid service delivery in Guelph.

Additionally, LAO has corresponded directly with various reporters from the Guelph area and has openly shared information on our transformation process. Most recently, Legal Aid Ontario provided information to the Guelph Mercury in response to a reporters enquiry on May 12. Those detailed responses have since been posted online at /www.legalaid.on.ca/en/news/media_enquiries.asp on the LAO website.

Since February, LAO has been providing information on an ongoing basis about our transformation to Guelph area stakeholders and clients via email, letters, leave behinds, face to face meetings, and other communications materials. LAO is committed to keeping the public, stakeholders and clients informed as we change the way we do business in Guelph and across Ontario.

LAO is pleased to offer Guelph area residents the opportunity to access legal aid services from home. Clients who need in-person access can continue to visit our duty counsel office in the Guelph courthouse. The overwhelming response -- nearly 20,000 people contacted us toll-free for legal aid assistance in April -- is a testament to the popularity of the new service model, which also includes 40 Legal Aid Ontario courthouse locations where vulnerable clients especially can get in-person assistance. Guelph-area clients are already using our toll-free service with success. Over 100 assists were provided over the phone in April 2010 to Guelph-based clients. (In 2009/10 LAO processed 904 Legal Aid applications for clients in the Guelph area.) Given that this is a new service that LAO is now providing to the public, LAO is continuing to increase staffing to meet demand, and expand the services available to eligible callers.

LAO is also making it easier and faster for clients to apply for a legal aid through the introduction of a simplified application process for clients. This process reduces the time required to complete an application by 62 per cent and frees up resources that can be reinvested in direct client services. Sixty four per cent of clients receive a same day decision on their legal aid application, which allows them to begin moving forward with their legal matters.

LAO serves almost 10,000 clients in court each year through our Guelph duty counsel lawyers. The new court-based LAO office in Guelph, scheduled to open this summer, will provide even more support to clients. The Area Office will remain open and staffed until the court office opens, and that location continues to serve clients. Having an office at the courthouse is a convenient way to assist people when and where they need help. Clients who are in court can quickly travel down the hall to apply for legal aid, rather than having to leave the courthouse, and having to return to court on another day.

Over the last 3 years, LAO has been increasing the use of technology to help improve our processes and reduce our administrative costs, invest savings in direct client services, and expand client access.

Sincerely,

Kristian Justesen
Manager of Communications and Public Affairs
Legal Aid Ontario


For more information

For more information please contact:

Kristian Justesen
Manager, Communications and Media Relations
Email: justesk@lao.on.ca