Update on financial eligibility certificate processes

Published: June 2, 2016

In June 2015, LAO implemented the most significant expansion of legal eligibility (ELE) in more than 25 years. We recognized that accurately forecasting the demand for these expanded legal eligibility categories would be challenging. This was due to the complex and unpredictable nature of legal service needs in rapidly changing areas of law, and the shortage of justice system data.

We also recognized that our vulnerable clients have significant needs above and beyond those now served by our financial eligibility expansion. We monitored growth within these new categories.

We learned that:

  • some of the criteria for these categories-which had been developed to be inclusive and flexible-were too vague
  • the demand for these services was higher than anticipated.

What LAO is doing

  • LAO has clarified its expanded legal eligibility (ELE) criteria [as announced June 2015] to align ELE expenditures with provincial funding and to ensure continuation of access to the certificate program for vulnerable clients with complex matters.
  • As a result of the clarification, some people with an expanded legal eligibility matter may now be referred to duty counsel for service and to determine whether the particular circumstances of the client meet the expanded criteria for certificate services. Clients who qualify under LAO’s clarified criteria will continue to be referred to the certificate program.

What has NOT changed

  • LAO will continue to issue certificates in appropriate circumstances, including to the clients for whom we developed ELE.
  • LAO will continue to provide high quality staff services to clients who do not qualify for a certificate.
  • LAO’s policies in criminal matters for first offenders and secondary consequences continue to apply.
  • LAO will continue to meet its commitments for financial eligibility expansion-to issue more certificates annually and provide high quality legal services to more low-income Ontarians in 2016/17.
  • Our processes for directing clients to the most appropriate services, at the earliest time, based on their circumstances and needs, have not changed.
  • Frontline staff and duty counsel will continue to triage cases to provide clients with the services they need.
  • Duty counsel will continue to provide high-quality services to more low-income Ontarians.


Feroneh Neil
Manager, Communications
Legal Aid Ontario
Tel.: (416) 979-2352 ext. 5103
Email: media@lao.on.ca