Applying for legal aid will now be a little easier for some of our clients. We recognize that an unfair administrative burden or barrier arises for our clients when they are expected to generate authoritative evidence of their poverty to qualify for legal aid. Sometimes we lose clients that way, and after they’re told to go find the proof, they never return.
On the other hand, we are accountable to taxpayers and must find alternative means of verification, other than pushing the burden on clients, for whom such a task may be particularly challenging, amid mental illness or addiction.
So as of February 17, 2023, a client who has been approved for legal aid within the past five years will not be required to provide proof of income and assets if their circumstances haven’t substantially changed. They will also not need to provide proof if they face significant barriers to providing proof, such as homelessness or having no source of income. This new initiative will speed up the process (by days or weeks, in some cases) so that our clients can more quickly receive the legal assistance they require.
For those new or more than five-years-ago clients, we do need to verify that clients meet the prerequisites for getting legal aid. But we are working with our government partners to see if the information our clients have already shared with the Province (such as receiving social assistance) may be shared, with clients’ consent.
For more information, you can view the updated application requirements on the Legal Aid BC website.