Our vision is a British Columbia where all people are able to find timely and lasting solutions to their legal issues that improve their quality of life. Every year, the Legal Services Society helps tens of thousands of British Columbians. We help them with serious family problems, child protection matters, immigration matters, and criminal issues. Here are some numbers that illustrate what we do.
All of the following numbers are for fiscal year 2015/16.
Thousands of people apply for legal aid every year. To qualify, applicants must have a low income and their legal issue must be covered by our policies.
Lawyers are contracted by the Legal Services Society to do legal aid work on behalf of eligible clients.
76% of child protection applications are approved. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you may have a right to a lawyer if your children might be taken away by the government.
79% of criminal applications are approved. If you are charged with a crime and are at risk of going to jail, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms you may have a right to have a lawyer represent you in court.
Only 48% of family law applicants are approved for a lawyer to represent them. There is a high demand for family law services, but we have limited funding for them. To ensure a balanced budget, LSS has to limit representation services to situations where safety is at risk or there’s a persistent denial of access to children.
75% of immigration applicants receive a lawyer to help them apply for refugee status or to face an immigration proceeding that could result in removal from Canada.
Funding in 2015/16 was almost $80 million.
Most of it (91%) comes from the BC government. We also receive generous funding from the Law Foundation and Notary Foundation.
Most of our spending goes towards paying lawyers to help our clients.
The cost of administration was just 11%.
*Includes payments to lawyers, contract representation services, large criminal cases, duty counsel, public services, and tariff administration.
**Includes justice innovation projects, publishing, community engagement and Aboriginal services.
We are accountable for public funds and are required by government to have a balanced budget. In 2015/16, we had no budget deficit.
The cost of legal aid services is largely driven by external factors, such as the number of people charged with a crime, children taken into government care and family breakups, as well as legislative policies.
In past years, the society has had to reduce staff and close offices, and restrict services. While we continue to look for savings, without an increase in funding, we can only provide limited family law services and risk not being able to maintain mandated services.