Posts in Legal aid
Starter Legal Display Kit for public libraries

The Legal Services Society is pleased to partner with LawMatters on the Starter Legal Display Kit for public libraries. Using this form, public libraries can order a free basic kit of legal information handouts plus specific titles based on their community’s needs! The purpose of promoting handouts in a legal display is to provide another access point for patrons: access to print information they can take away for themselves.

As always, LSS publications can be individually ordered at any time from www.crownpub.bc.ca or read online at legalaid.bc.ca/read.

LawMatters and LSS are offering this service for a limited time for public libraries. We welcome your feedback as it helps us shape future resources and services. Contact lawmatters@courthouselibrary.ca or publications@lss.bc.ca if you have any questions or comments.

See the LawMatters blog post for more details.

Legal aidLegal Aid
New legal aid service offers early resolution for criminal cases

LSS is introducing a new criminal law service with fewer eligibility requirements so that we can serve a broader range of clients who wouldn’t normally qualify for legal aid.

On May 15, 2019, LSS is launching a new Criminal Early Resolution service that will provide a lawyer to clients who might otherwise have to represent themselves on matters that don’t require a trial. The financial eligibility limit is $1,000 higher than for a standard representation contract, and there’s no requirement that the client face a risk of jail.

Currently, LSS denies service to 1,200 criminal applicants a year because their incomes are over the financial eligibility limit or they don’t face jail. We expect, however, that client demand for the new service will exceed that number once people learn about it. This means significantly more people will have access to lawyers for legal advice and assistance through the court process.

The Criminal Early Resolution service is ideal for clients who don’t qualify for standard legal aid representation services but whose cases can’t be resolved by duty counsel.

Benefits of this new service include legal representation for clients, early resolution for clients, and elimination of unnecessary court appearances.

Legal aid services available as usual – Lawyer service withdrawal averted

LSS is pleased to announce that legal aid services will not be disrupted starting next week after all. Lawyers who do legal aid have voted to accept a bargaining incentive payment from the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Services Society to prevent a withdrawal of lawyer services.

This is good news for the many people who rely on legal aid. The offer was made possible with a $4 million contribution from government and $3.9 million from LSS. The $7.9 million total will be used to increase payments to lawyers for several months, during which time the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers, LSS, and the ministry will negotiate a framework for a future increase in payments beyond the end of October. Lawyers do valuable work on behalf of legal aid clients and have had only one increase in pay since 1991.

 To find out more, see our announcement on the LSS website.

Legal aidLegal Aid
LSS prepares for a possible withdrawal of lawyer services

Many of you have heard the news that members of the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers have voted 97% in favour of withdrawing their services April 1, 2019. If this happens, we want you to know that LSS is committed to taking all reasonable steps to help people who need legal aid.

If lawyers stop accepting legal aid contracts, LSS will prioritize the most vulnerable people as follows:

o   Situations where children have been, or may be, removed from a parent by the Ministry of Children and Family Development

o   People requiring Family Protection Orders

o   People needing an order to prevent the other parent from permanently relocating (moving) their child out of the province

o   People who are being held in custody on criminal charges and waiting for a bail hearing to determine if they can be released from jail until they have to appear in court

LSS is taking every step to prepare in advance. LSS intake and local agent offices will still be accepting legal aid applications; however, people should expect longer wait times on the LSS Call Centre and Family LawLINE. Parents Legal Centres will also continue to provide child protection services.

What we know so far is there will be a significant impact on those appearing in court charged with a crime. While we expect some family duty counsel to still be available in many courthouses on family court days, the situation could change.

Immigration services will likely be affected. Though at this time, LSS expects to be able to cover immigration duty counsel for those in detention. We are working on alternatives for those needing to fill out refugee claim applications.

From what we know now (subject to change), contracted lawyers for the following services will be working during a withdrawal:

  • Duty counsel at First Nations Court, Drug Treatment Court, Downtown Community Court, and Circuit Courts

  • Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel in Port Coquitlam

  • Family advice lawyers at Family Justice/Justice Access Centres

  • Family LawLINE and Brydges Line

LSS will make efforts to find lawyers willing to take contracts to help vulnerable clients, and refer people we cannot help to other resources.

We will keep you informed as things change.

Legal aidLegal Aid
New service for clients with financial security issues

Effective October 30, 2018, the Legal Services Society will implement a new limited representation contract for a trial period, where counsel may provide unbundled services to clients with financial security issues, including child and spousal support and preservation and/or division of family property. The contracts are intended to provide clients with the assistance necessary to effectively negotiate a settlement or represent themselves.

Limited representation contracts will include up to 15 hours preparation, including limited court-based case conference attendance. Unbundling legal services, where counsel provide legal services for part of a client’s legal matter, allows clients to access some legal help where they would otherwise not be eligible for legal aid representation.

Legal aidLegal Aid
Legal aid now available to help children stay out of foster care

Sometimes a grandparent, aunt, uncle or other relative is willing to care for a child who is at risk of going into foster care, or has been removed from their home already -- because the parents are unable to care for them. In foster care, however, children often lose touch of the things that matter most: their family, culture and community. That’s why the Legal Services Society (LSS) is now providing lawyer services to relatives who would like to care for a child on a temporary or permanent basis. Community members with a cultural or traditional responsibility towards a child may also be eligible.

The intent of the new service is to keep children out of foster care whenever possible. In some cases, we can provide lawyers for collaborative processes before or at the same time as the child’s family is involved in a court action. If relatives and community members can’t resolve the matter of caring for a child out of court, the service may include a lawyer’s assistance in court.

Relatives and community members who want to become caregivers may be eligible for this service if they meet LSS’s financial and coverage guidelines. To apply, contact the nearest legal aid office or call LSS at 1-866-577-2525 or 604-408-2172.

Legal aidLegal Aid
More people with child protection matters will now be financially eligible for legal aid

The Legal Services Society (LSS) has increased the financial eligibility guidelines for child protection services. This is to improve the accessibility of legal aid when a child has been removed or is at risk of being removed from their home by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

LSS provides lawyers to about 2,300 people with child protection cases each year. With its severe consequences on families, LSS is hoping the higher income cut-off will mean more people get a lawyer’s assistance when there are concerns that a child is in need of protection.

The financially eligibility guidelines for child protection (CFCSA) matters have increased by $1000 for each household size. The change became effective as of September 27, 2018. See the new income chart here.

By increasing the guidelines, LSS now has consistent financial eligibility criteria for all its child protection representation services, including LSS’s Parents Legal Centres.

Legal aidLegal Aid
LSS increases availability of family law services

With new funding from the provincial government, the Legal Services Society (LSS) is now able to help more people who have family law problems. LSS has reinstated family law coverage that it had to eliminate over a year ago when money for discretionary spending ran out.

The following policy changes may help one of your clients.

Family Exception Reviews

Under the Exception Review process, LSS will review the application of a financially eligible person whose legal problem does not meet our family coverage guidelines. The purpose of the review is to determine if there are circumstances that may warrant appointment of a lawyer for the person. The factors LSS will consider depend on the circumstances of the individual case, but are generally situations where appointment of counsel is needed.

Discretionary Financial Eligibility

Sometimes a legal aid applicant meets the coverage guidelines for family law representation but does not meet our financial eligibility guidelines. Discretionary financial coverage for family cases means LSS will take a more generous approach to determining if a client is eligible for legal aid. Note that it is for applicants who are only slightly over the financial eligibility guidelines and have a serious, complex case.

Extended Family Services

Under the Extended Family Services process, LSS can grant a lawyer more hours for a client whose primary legal issues require more time than was specified in their original legal aid representation contract.

If you are working with a client whose lawyer is nearing the end of the available hours in the representation contract, consider asking the lawyer to apply to LSS for Extended Services (it must be the lawyer, not the client, who applies).

If you have questions about whether these changes could help your client, please call 604-601-6000 and ask for Sarah Khan or Branka Matijasic.

Legal aidLegal Aid
Hot Off the Press: If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial
If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial

We’ve revised and reprinted If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial. This booklet is for people facing serious and complex criminal charges who’ve been denied legal aid and can’t afford a lawyer.

It explains why, how, and when to make a Rowbotham application – to ask the judge to stay your charges until the government provides funding for a lawyer. It also explains:

  • what you have to prove,
  • how to prepare for court, and
  • what happens in court.

The revisions we’ve made to the booklet include:

  • Clarifying terminology
  • Restructuring the information to present the application process more logically and in clearly defined steps
  • Adding visuals to improve readability

The booklet includes a checklist of points to cover in court and copies of the necessary court forms, with instructions on how to complete them.

Note that the French version of this publication does not include the recent changes that are in the English version.

Hot Off the Press – Working with Your Legal Aid Lawyer

We’ve translated Working with Your Legal Aid Lawyer fact sheet into Arabic, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Punjabi, and Spanish.

This fact sheet outlines the roles and responsibilities of the client and the legal aid lawyer in a balanced way, so they both know what to expect from a legal aid contract. It also explains:

  • what the lawyer’s time on the case includes,
  • what the lawyer can’t do,
  • change of lawyer requests, and
  • where to find out about making a complaint.

Knowing each other’s roles and responsibilities helps clients and lawyers work together on the case.

Surrey Parents Legal Centre now open to help people with child protection matters!
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The Parents Legal Centre (PLC) is a Legal Services Society (Legal Aid BC) service to help eligible parents, or people standing in the place of a parent, with child protection matters. The PLC offers early intervention in dealing with the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a Delegated Aboriginal Agency. PLC lawyers provide legal advice and representation at collaborative processes or at court, and PLC advocates provide support throughout the process, as well as help accessing community resources and agencies.

The Vancouver PLC is located at Robson Square Provincial Court to help clients from Vancouver and Burnaby and has been operating since February 2015.

The Surrey PLC opened on February 19, 2018. The Surrey PLC will help parents facing matters that could go to Surrey Provincial Court. This centre will help parents in Surrey, White Rock, parts of Langley, and parents from Delta with cases handled by Métis Family Services. The Surrey PLC is located at:

3rd Floor
7337 137th Street
Newton Town Centre, Surrey

If you have any questions, please contact the Surrey PLC at 604-595-4360 or the Vancouver PLC at 604-601-6310.

Continued funding for immigration and refugee legal aid
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Thanks to discussions between the federal and provincial governments, the Legal Services Society has received a commitment for additional immigration and refugee funding that will ensure the continuation of services through the end of our fiscal year (March 31, 2018). Earlier this year, continuation of these services was in question due to a lack of funding to keep up with the increased demand. We would like to thank everyone who took time to bring this important issue to the attention of elected officials, the media, and other influential organizations. Your efforts made legal aid and refugees a topic of public debate and have helped the Legal Services Society get additional funding to help those who are most in need of assistance as they try to start a new life in Canada.

The two levels of government continue to discuss funding for the 2018/2019 fiscal year. LSS has provided them with an analysis of the anticipated demand for immigration and refugee services, which indicates that a significant increase to our funding will be needed to provide these services for the entire year.

Hot off the Press – Legal Aid Can Help You

We’ve reprinted the English version of our Legal Aid Can Help You brochure with minor revisions. This plain language brochure is also available in print and online in Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Kurdish, Punjabi, and Spanish, and online only in French. These language versions don't include the most recent changes and updates that appear in the English version. Previous versions should be recycled.

The brochure outlines legal aid services and what kind of help is available by phone, in person, and online. It also lists all legal aid locations in BC with the phone numbers.

Additional federal funding for immigration and refugee legal aid

The Legal Services Society has received confirmation that the federal government will provide additional funding to ensure continued legal aid services for immigrants and refugees. LSS announced last month it would stop taking applications for immigration and refugee services effective August 1, 2017, due to a lack of funding to keep up with increased demand.

The new funding allows LSS to maintain services until November 2017 and federal-provincial discussions regarding immigration and refugee legal aid in BC are concluded.

“Refugees are an extremely vulnerable group. Many have faced persecution and torture and they need help to navigate our complex legal system,” said Mark Benton, QC, Chief Executive Officer of the Legal Services Society. “This new funding demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to helping those who need our support and assistance.”

The need for increased funding is the result of the global refugee crisis, which resulted in a 145 percent increase in legal aid refugee cases at LSS over the past three years. The new funding is necessary at this time because LSS, unlike other legal aid plans, cannot reallocate funding from other services to cover a deficit in immigration services.

[Update] LSS will no longer accept applications for immigration and refugee cases effective August 1, 2017

Update: The Legal Services Society has received confirmation that the federal government will provide additional funding to ensure continued legal aid services for immigrants and refugees. --

Effective August 1, 2017, the Legal Services Society will no longer accept applications for immigration and refugee cases due to a lack of funding. The global refugee crisis has resulted in a 145 percent increase in refugee cases over the past three years. Funding for refugee services, which is provided by the federal government, has, however, not kept up with demand. LSS must stop issuing new contracts for immigration and refugee services on August 1 to ensure it has enough money to pay for those contracts that have already been issued. For more information see our FAQ.

Hot off the site: LSS website homepage update
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The next time you visit the LSS website homepage, you’ll notice a new look. We’ve added more visual elements to help you find what you need. Our user-focused changes include entry points based on the legal issues LSS covers (Family, Children/MCFD, Criminal, and Immigration). When you click the button for an area of law, you’re directed to relevant services.

We’ve also made our Call Centre phone numbers more prominent for people who want to apply for legal aid.

Other changes include an Updates section to accommodate more of our stories and news items, and more prominent links to our other sites. And at the bottom of the page, you’ll find links to our three core services: Information, Advice, and Representation.

We hope you like the updated look and find the changes improve your website experience.

If you’d like to let us know what you think, you can either complete the popup survey that may appear when you enter the site or email your feedback to us.

Hot off the Press - Working with Your Legal Aid Lawyer

Our new Working with Your Legal Aid Lawyer fact sheet replaces What You Should Expect from Your Legal Aid Lawyer. Through a creative new design, we present the roles and responsibilities of the client and the legal aid lawyer in a balanced way. With these guidelines, clients and lawyers will know what to expect from a legal aid contract.

The fact sheet also explains:

  • what the lawyer’s time on the case includes,
  • what the lawyer can’t do,
  • change of lawyer requests, and
  • where to find out about making a complaint.

Knowing each other’s roles and responsibilities will help clients and lawyers work together on the case.