TORONTO, Aug. 28, 2014 /CNW/ - The GTA Legal Clinics' Transformation Project has released its Vision Report for the region's geographically-based clinics. The report recommends transforming the way community legal clinics carry out their work. By consolidating their resources into fewer clinics they could:
- Increase front line staff by 20 per cent.
- More than double the number of dedicated community development workers.
- Increase access for clients.
- Provide faster, better and more service.
- Provide consistent services across the GTA.
- Develop better partnerships with other community agencies.
The report finds opportunities are maximized when a clinic employs around 33 staff. Average clinic size is currently eight staff. The new model calls for individual clinics in Peel/Dufferin and York Region. Fourteen Toronto clinics would be reorganized into three or four larger clinics. Additional client access points would open through new partnerships with other community agencies. Resources would be distributed based on the number of low-income households in each clinic catchment area.
A Steering Committee made up of board and staff representatives of all 16 participating legal clinics heads the GTA Clinic Transformation Project. This report comes after a year of consultation. Project leaders spoke with the board and staff members at every clinic and held focus groups for clients and community partners. They analyzed both quantitative and qualitative data. It's now time for clinics to endorse the vision before an implementation plan can be developed.
"Our Board has been looking for ways to provide more services to our community and have been held back by the fact our clinic is too small to really innovate. By redistributing resources, making clinics larger and increasing community development we can get better partnerships with our community partners, and be more accessible to our clients. While the catchment areas will be larger, we will have more resources to keep in touch with what is happening in the community."
Project Co-Lead and Executive Director at Flemingdon Community Legal Services
"The growth of poverty, and the corresponding growth in demand for community legal services, has been exponential in the GTA. There has been no corresponding growth in funding for clinics in the past 14 years. The report acknowledges its recommendations can only be implemented with additional funding to address this historic shortfall."
Jack de Klerk
Project Co-Lead and Director of Legal Services at Neighbourhood Legal Services
"The Report addresses important issues that have been simmering for a long time. We can get more resources for the 905 area. We can increase front line staff. We can increase community development workers. Staff can work in teams. We can have back up for all our staff. We can make our services more uniform throughout the GTA. We can make our services more accessible to everyone, not just those who live close to the clinic. This is an opportunity we shouldn't miss."
Executive Director, North Peel and Dufferin CLS
- Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) funds 17 clinics in Toronto, Peel, Dufferin County and York Region (LAO's GTA Region) with a combined budget of $16.5 million annually. The clinics are funded for about 135 staff; a number unchanged since 2000. Although part of the GTA, the Mississauga clinic has not joined the Project; the other 16 have.
- The project does not include specialty clinics with provincial mandates or clinics based on cultural or linguistic service mandates.
- LAO has guaranteed funding will not decrease and staffing cuts are not required.
- In 2010, there were 504,710 low income households in the GTA; 44% more than in 2001.
- Peel/Dufferin: 2001 – 54,110 | 2010 – 112,920
- York Region: 2001 – 30,212 | 2010 – 76,510
- Toronto: 2001 – 264,375 | 2010 – 315,280
- Total: 2001 – 348,697 | 2010 – 504,710
- This is a 125% increase In Peel/Dufferin and York Region.
- The GTA clinics provided assistance to residents more than 60,000 times last year.
- LAO funds 76 independent community legal clinics across the province; many are over 30 years old.
- Clinics provide services to qualifying low-income residents mainly in income maintenance matters, residential tenancy disputes and some immigration and refugees cases.
SOURCE: GTA Community Legal Clinics
For further information: Jack de Klerk, Project Co-Lead, Tel: 416-861-0677 Ext. 706, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org