New eligibility test simplifies client application process

Posted on: Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Quick facts:

90% of LAO clients make less than $15,000 annually

95% of LAO clients have assets under $1,000

470: average number of applications taken by LAO staff per day

Low-income Ontarians will now benefit from a newer version of a financial test that determines whether clients qualify for a legal aid certificate.

Today, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is implementing its simplified financial eligibility test, which will make it easier for clients to apply for legal aid certificates. The new test is faster, simpler to administer and requires less client documentation, enabling clients to move forward with their legal matter more quickly.

Unlike the previous needs-based test, which could be time-consuming and required clients to provide numerous documents such as bank statements, pay slips and proof of social assistance benefits, the simplified test is now based on income and uses the size of the applicant’s family unit to determine eligibility, from a single individual up to families of five or more.

The new test is designed to mirror the results of the previous test, while providing faster outcomes. Clients eligible under the previous test will continue to qualify. In some cases, depending on the applicant’s income, LAO may request the applicant to make monthly contributions toward the cost of their legal fees.

The implementation of the new test also means that staff will spend less time administering lengthy financial testing procedures to applicants who are clearly eligible or are low-risk, and more time providing direct legal assistance. As with the previous version, the new test will continue to provide flexibility for vulnerable clients, particularly those dealing with mental health issues and victims of domestic abuse.

The simplified financial eligibility test supports a number of improvements LAO has been making to reduce administrative costs and improve services and access for clients. Some of the improvements include expanding access to legal aid services over the phone and on the internet, establishing LAO offices in the courthouses, and expanding family legal services.

For more information

For more information about Legal Aid Ontario’s new simplified financial eligibility test, please see:

  • Eligibility information for the certificate program
  • Eligibility information for duty counsel, summary legal advice and some other legal aid services
  • You can also print a copy of our eligibility guidelines.