As 2017/18 drew to a close, the Ontario government released its 2018 budget, which included an ongoing investment in the expansion of legal aid.
Since 2014, the government has raised the eligibility threshold for legal aid by 25 per cent, bringing us even closer to the low income measure and enabling more low‑income Ontarians to use our services.
At the tail end of March, we announced that we were raising our eligibility threshold for 2018 by another six per cent for our certificate program and for clinic law services, effective April 1.
Also effective that date, we started asking legal aid applicants about their race to help us collect the statistics that would help LAO figure out how to improve our services and create the types of programs that certain racialized groups need. This initiative is just one that LAO has begun as part of our vulnerable client strategies. A core focus for us is to develop a stronger understanding of what certain client groups need so that we can get them the services that they need most.
In January, for example, we announced that we would be funding the new legal aid clinic, Black Legal Action Centre. This is a grassroots effort that help us ensure that much needed legal services are getting to the communities that need them.
Regarding LAO's financial situation, things have improved significantly since the end of 2016 when we were forced to take measures to bring spending into line with a balanced budget. As a result of our budget strategy, as well as increases in funding from the Federal government (for refugee services) and from the Law Foundation (due to increases to the Bank of Canada interest rate in July and September last year), LAO ended the 2017/18 fiscal year with an operating surplus.
While there is still a ways to go, we are definitely in a better position than we were a year ago. Looking forward, we know that better than anticipated revenues from the Law Foundation will help us to move forward with new services and updates to programs. We are currently assessing our fiscal position and will keep you up-to-date as we move forward when LAO is able to gradually start reintroducing certain services. To provide a broad overview of the services we provided to clients in 2017/18, we will be sharing our service level reports for certificates, the call centre, duty counsel and others as they are finalized. We will share our services level report for 2017/18 as they are finalized.
President & CEO
Legal Aid Ontario
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LAO offers intake, triage and support services to people applying for legal aid, existing legal aid clients and lawyers who provide legal services on behalf of legal aid.
Call centre – Tier 1
Agents in Tier 1 of LAO’s call centre can help assess service needs and provide information about qualifying for legal aid. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: triage, making referrals, performing status checks and updating client profiles.
Call centre – Tier 2
Tier 2 agents conduct an in-depth analysis of a client’s legal needs, financial situation and case details to determine eligibility for legal aid services. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: processing applications, issuing certificates, making referrals, and providing enhanced public legal information.
Call centre – In-custody
LAO also offers a service dedicated to helping people who are incarcerated across the province. Staff take calls directly from inmates to determine legal aid eligibility, process applications and issue certificates as well as conduct status checks on submitted applications.
Call centre – Lawyers
Lawyers who do legal aid work can contact the call centre for information, including but not limited to: tariff, billing, account status and technical support. This group serves as a first point of contact for most lawyers’ enquiries.
|Persons assisted for intake, triage and support||2016/17||2017/18|
|Phone: Tier 1||68,891||78,089||75,588||69,813||63,187||76,566|
|Phone: Tier 2||26,108||30,167||26,587||26,336||24,235||23,152|
|Phone: In-custody clients||7,419||8,992||8,773||8,919||7,693||7,437|
|Phone: Lawyer Service Centre||10,306||11,928||11,132||11,403||11,942||12,061|
Duty counsel are LAO staff and per diem lawyers in courthouses. They can give immediate legal assistance to low-income people who would otherwise be unrepresented and unassisted.
|Persons assisted by duty counsel - criminal law||2016/17||2017/18|
|Per Diem DC||32,748||35,215||30,116||39,126||34,668||40,806|
|Persons assisted by duty counsel - family law||2016/17||2017/18|
|Per Diem DC||17,711||20,527||15,118||19,148||17,369||20,866|
Legal aid applicants who are financially eligible, and who are facing a serious legal matter covered by LAO, may be issued a certificate to cover the cost of a private practice lawyer.
A certificate is a voucher that a low-income person can take to one of more than 3,600 private practice lawyers across the province who accept legal aid clients. A certificate guarantees the lawyer payment for a certain number of hours if they accept the case.
|Certificates issued by area of law||2016/17||2017/18|
|Immigration and Refugee Law||3,276||3,451||3,259||3,306||3,493||3,628|
|Total Certificates Issued||26,417||27,605||26,293||26,191||24,938||25,451|
 Other is a category that represents all other legal matters covered by LAO certificates, such as: CCB matters, prison law matters and matters before civil tribunal.
|Key Performance Indicator (KPI) name||Measurement frequency||Last measured||Target||Previous year (2016/17)||Current value|
|% of same day decisions for certificates||Quarterly||Q4 2017/18||80%||75.6%||78.5%|
|% of area office appeals heard within 3 days||Quarterly||Q4 2017/18||80%||51.6%||53.0%|
|Acceptance rate for certificate applications||Quarterly||Q4 2017/18||87%||87.7%||84.5%|
|% of calls answered within 3 minutes (L1)||Quarterly||Q4 2017/18||80%||83.0%||16.0%|
|% of calls answered within 3 minutes (LSC)||Quarterly||Q4 2017/18||80%||69.0%||87.0%|
|% of calls answered within 3 minutes (Worklist)||Quarterly||Q4 2017/18||80%||88.0%||54.0%|
|% of calls answered within 20 minutes (L2)||Quarterly||Q4 2017/18||80%||79.0%||20.0%|
|Overall client satisfaction - % of positive responses (in-person)||Annual||Q4 2017/18||80%||93.0%||77.0%|
|Number of Ontarians financially eligible for LAO's services||Annual||Q1 2017/18||Maintain||1,540,000||1,540,000|
|Overall lawyer satisfaction - % of positive responses||Annual||Q3 2017/18||60%||56.0%||53.0%|
|Revenue||Apr. 1, 2016 - Mar. 31, 2017 ($M)||Apr. 1, 2017 - Mar. 31, 2018 ($M)|
|Core Business Expenses|
|Client Service Offices||$22.6M||$20.4M|
|Duty Counsel Program||$56.2M||$56.1M|
|Total Core Business Expenses||$399.9M||$396.8M|
|Service Provider Support||$6.7M||$6.4M|
|Total Operating Expenses||$81.5M||$80.0M|
|Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings||($25.5M)||$10.8M|
Totals may not add due to rounding