Legal Aid Ontario Transforms Client Services in Parry Sound and Bracebridge/Muskoka
Posted on: November 19, 2009
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is moving more quickly on its ongoing initiative of streamlining processes, reducing infrastructure costs, making greater use of technology and widening access points for clients.
With this in mind, LAO services in the Parry Sound and Bracebridge/Muskoka area will be transitioning to a mix of new and more streamlined services such as telephone, web-based and courthouse services.
The end result will be more people provided with the services they need at the right time, and at lower cost. Clients in these communities can access the full range of legal aid services and information, in 120 different languages, through LAO’s toll-free number. This convenient access point meets the needs of a rural community where public transportation can be a challenge.
The toll-free client service centre complements and works in tandem with an enhanced, interactive website launched on November 13, 2009 to provide additional access points for clients wherever they may be located.
Clients will continue to receive direct legal advice and assistance through the duty counsel program, which is available in every courthouse in the province. LAO will also be expanding its presence in the courthouse, and enhancing duty counsel services.
These initiatives and others aimed at increasing access to client services – referrals, legal support and significantly streamlining the certificate application process – will reduce the need for certain administrative and overhead costs at the area and provincial office levels. This will lead to fewer delays in the court system.
Legal Aid Ontario will expand client services and access points already developed over the last several years, which include a simplified online application process, Legal Aid Ontario in the Courthouse, and better accountability and responsiveness to client needs through regional reorganization.
The regionalization of services, through the new district model, has improved coordination and accountability of legal aid services.
Parry Sound, Bracebridge/Muskoka and Barrie are now part of the Central District, with a District Area Director based in the Barrie office responsible for the management and oversight of legal aid services in this area. The Barrie District Area Office will act as the regional hub – supporting service providers and duty counsel, managing client services and building partnerships with justice sector partners.
External factors such as the current economic climate have reinforced the importance of LAO’s ongoing transformation plans. Revenues to LAO from the Law Foundation of Ontario have dropped significantly, resulting in a large deficit that must be addressed at the same time as demand for services remains high because of the economy. The terms of the provincial government's recently announced, multi-year $150 million investment in the legal aid system require that it be earmarked for enhancements to client services and not be applied to LAO's revenue shortfall.
“This transition to a mix of new and more streamlined services will ensure we are well-positioned to meet the needs of clients in this district well into the future.”
Randall Ellsworth, Vice President, North, Central and Eastern Regions