Role of area committees evolving to better serve clients

Posted on: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As part of LAO’s wider modernization strategy, the role of area committees will be evolving to ensure services are responsive and timely for clients, more cost effective, make greater use of technology and streamline administration. LAO is currently working on a number of area committee reforms, which include centralizing area committee functions so that appeals are processed quickly and more consistently.

As part of this process, the district area directors will be taking on the role of secretaries to the area committees.

Our transformation of legal aid services includes providing quicker and even more effective client service. As a result, LAO is also launching a pilot, which will explore changes to the appeals process so clients may receive the help they need, faster.

Beginning April 1, 2010, the districts of Parry Sound, Muskoka and Simcoe County have been merged into the Central District. The current members of the area committees in Parry Sound, Muskoka and Simcoe County have amalgamated to form one district committee. Appeals will have a shorter turnaround time – cases will be considered within three days of receipt – so clients whose appeals are unsuccessful may be directed to other resources as quickly as possible. Meetings will be held twice weekly to ensure that there is enough time to hear and make decisions on each appeal.

LAO is moving toward more technology-based practices and as a result, meetings will now be held by telephone conference call. Clients will receive assistance in completing their appeals documents, but will no longer be required to attend meetings. To further promote efficiency, LAO will make all documents available to area committee members through email.

So far the preliminary results and the feedback from members of the first three District Area Committee pilot meetings have been very positive.

LAO values the work of the area committees and will continue to inform staff of any changes as the process moves forward.