Responses to recent media enquiries
LAO highlights long-term strategy
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Letter to the editor:
Further to the editorial, “Crunching the Numbers at LAO” printed in the February 13, 2012 edition of the Law Times, it is important to emphasize that LAO’s transformation has been ongoing since 2008. It is based on making better use of technology, streamlining administration, expanding access for clients, and increasing value for taxpayers.
Recently the Auditor General of Ontario observed that LAO’s long-term strategy was “well defined” and the organization “has moved to increase access to legal aid services beyond the issuing of certificates, such as through expanded use of duty counsel available at courthouses and through its new call centre.”
Some of the significant transformative changes to the legal aid program in Ontario include:
- Simplified the legal aid application process making it simpler and faster for clients to apply – 88 percent of applicants now receive a same day decision.
- Established a toll-free Client Service Centre which connects callers to a variety of services including, legal information, referrals, legal aid applications, and criminal and family summary legal advice from a lawyer in over 200 hundred languages – LAO is forecasting to receive more than 300,000 client calls in 2011/12.
- Opened 56 Courthouse offices – courthouse offices provide easy access to legal aid services including information, referrals, certificate applications and updates, and legal advice from a lawyer – More than 60,000 clients have been serve at a courthouse location since 2009.
- Increased web resources - LAO’s website provides access to information about legal aid services and other online resources and information – In the past year, traffic on the LAO website increased by 15 percent to over 775,000 visitors.
New Family service
- Opened 6 Family Law Services Centers across Ontario
- Expanded family mediation services to provide more options to low-income Ontarians.
- Introduced family summary legal advice over the phone
- Launched the Family Law Information Program – an online family information resource available to all Ontario residents
New Criminal services
- Created a new Complex Case Rate and Panel to help legal aid clients with serious and complicated matters retain quality legal representation - new hourly rate - $129.81 increasing to $135 on 1 April 2012.
- Block Fees - Established a program to reduce red tape and make it simpler and faster for lawyers to get paid
- Introduced summary criminal legal advice over the phone
- Launched LawFacts – An online public legal information resource for people with matters before the criminal courts – the new site has been viewed more than 15,000 times since being launched in December 2011.
- Enhanced duty counsel services to include more fulsome service to assist clients to move their matters forward – in 2010/11 duty counsel lawyer provided 1,031,000 legal assists
New Poverty Law Services and Programs
- Introduced professional interpretation and translation services in over 200 languages for community legal clinics
- Established an innovation program to assist community clinics in developing and implementing new programming and service delivery channels that expand client access and provide more effective use of funding
Legal Aid Ontario has and will continue to transform legal aid service to ensure low-income people in Ontario continue to have access to quality legal aid services that represent an effective and efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars.