As Legal Aid Ontario expands eligibility for legal aid, it says it will provide new funding to clinics based on the needs of the particular areas they serve.
Today LAO announced it will provide $1.5 million in funding to support legal clinics serving areas with the most number of people living in poverty. The funding is on top of $2.4 million it provided to clinics for the 2014-15 fiscal year, legal aid says, adding it will allow clinics to hire more staff, expand existing services, or launch new services that support clients.
The need-based allocation of funds means so far, clinics like Kensington-Bellwoods Community Legal Services Toronto have seen no increase in funding while the Community Legal Clinic of York Region is getting a 65 per cent boost in financial support.
The allocation strategy recognizes the inequalities in funding to clinics over the years as poverty changed its postal code, says Cynthia Harper, LAO’s director general for the Toronto central district.
“Poverty has moved,” Harper says. “The money is being allocated where the greatest need is.”
In the GTA, this means funding will follow poverty in areas such as Scarborough, Brampton, Etobicoke, North York and Mississauga, according to Harper.
As poverty moved, “Some clinics were finding that they had to serve this great number of people but they didn’t have the same financial resources per low-income person,” says Genevieve Oger, spokeswoman for legal aid. “So legal aid has opted to increase the financial resources of clinics that have the fewest resources per low-income person.”
To determine funding per low-income person in clinics’ service areas, legal aid says it is using Statistics Canada's low-income measure data from 2012 as well as its own funding and population data.
While not every clinic has seen a boost in its funding, Harper notes all legal clinics are eligible to apply for $2.4 million in funding available for joint and co-operative initiatives among legal clinics.
The funding to clinics follows $95.7 million in increased government support for legal aid over three years.
“Thanks to the Ontario government’s move to increase access to legal aid, Legal Aid Ontario can invest in new services for low-income people,” said John McCamus, chairman of LAO. “Ontario's clinics are the foundation of poverty law in this province and we are committed to helping them meet the needs of their communities."
Lenny Abramowicz, the executive director of the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario, also lauded today’s announcement of additional funding.
“Ontario’s community legal clinics, and the communities they serve, welcome this investment of additional funding,” he said. “We applaud the provincial government for its ongoing commitment to improving access to justice, and we look forward to working with Legal Aid Ontario on expanding the availability of community legal services across the province.”