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Legal Aid Eligibility Threshold Raised by 6% in April 2016

Apr 15th, 2016 | By | Category: Legal Aid

Legal Aid Eligibility Threshold Raised by 6% in April 2016

Ontario is giving nearly 400,000 more people get access to affordable legal services by increasing the financial eligibility threshold for Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) by six per cent, effective immediately. This is the third increase over the last three years.

Enhancing legal aid for the most vulnerable is part of Ontario’s plan to create a justice system for everyone. Legal Aid Ontario provides low-income Ontarians with access to legal services in criminal, family, immigration, mental health and poverty law. LAO is the second largest justice agency in the province. Many forms of assistance are available:

  • representation for urgent or serious matters
  • advice about legal rights, obligations and court processes
  • assistance in the court room for bail hearings and sentencing
  • local legal services from a community clinic, in areas such as social assistance and housing law

A simpler, faster and more accessible justice system helps to create a fair society and makes life easier for many Ontarians.

Some facts about Legal Aid Ontario:

  • Since 2003, Ontario has invested over $3 billion in Legal Aid Ontario
  • More than 1 million people get assistance from Legal Aid Ontario annually
  • Legal Aid Ontario annual operating budget was of $371.6 million in 2011-2012
  • Over 100,000 legal aid certificates issued annually

New Financial Eligibility Guidelines for Legal Aid

Starting from April 1st, 2016, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) implements new financial eligibility threshold for all legal aid services.

Certificate Program

The certificate program provides eligible, low income Ontarians publicly funded legal representation. A certificate is a voucher guaranteeing that the lawyer will get paid for representing the legal aid client for a certain number of hours. Certificates are only for the most serious legal matters, which may include:

  • Criminal charges where a jail sentence is likely
  • Serious family problems such as child protection issues
  • Immigration and refugee matters

The financial threshold for the certificate program is as follows:

Family size Annual gross income
1 $12,863
2 $22,253
3 $25,367
4 $28,664
5+ $31,817

Duty counsel services

The duty counsel program provides legal services in criminal, family law and child protection court cases to low-income Ontarians who do not have a lawyer. These services include:

  • Giving advice about legal rights, obligations and the court process
  • Providing assistance in the courtroom for bail hearings and sentencing
  • Assist with diversion, guilty pleas and adjournments
  • Review or prepare court documents to be filed

The financial threshold for the duty counsel program is as follows:

Family size Annual gross income
1 $21,438
2 $32,131
3 $36,921
4 $44,068
5+ $50,803

Clinic services

Legal Aid Ontario also funds 76 community clinics and six Student Legal Aid Services Societies located throughout the province. These organizations employ lawyers, legal workers, paralegals and administrative staff to provide information, legal advice and representation.

Community legal clinics have some discretion in applying these guidelines. The financial threshold is as follows:

Family size Annual gross income
1 $18,818
2 $21,796
3 $25,488
4 $27,572
5+ $30,430

For more information about Legal Aid Ontario services visit http://legalaid.on.ca/

Sources:

  • https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2016/04/ontario-raising-legal-aid-eligibility-threshold-by-another-6-per-cent.html
  • http://legalaid.on.ca/en/news/newsarchive/1503-31_eligibilityguidelinesdetails.asp
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