Business Plan Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission

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1 Business Plan Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission

2 Contents Message from the Executive Director... 2 Mandate... 2 Government Priorities... 3 People... 3 Innovation... 3 Education... 3 Core Responsibilities... 3 Outcomes... 3 Goals... 3 Financial... 3 Services... 4 Operations... 4 IT... 4 Actions... 4 Financial... 4 Service... 4 Operations... 4 IT... 4 Inputs... 4 Performance Measures... 5 Financial... 5 Services... 5 Operations... 5 IT... 5 Commission Expenses Summary

3 Message from the Executive Director Nova Scotia Legal Aid ensures that help is available at a critical point. It is the type of help that can take an individual or a family out of crisis, map a better way forward and put within grasp the means of transformation. Sustainable funding from the Province has supported us in making our new motto Here to Help a reality over the past two years. Our Business Plan focuses on client first and stakeholder collaboration. This isn t bureaucratic talk ; these are important themes with specific strategies. Clients will be supported through easier application routes, including online; e-reminders of court dates and appointments; refreshed user-friendly website; lawyers and staff providing proportional help. Proportional help includes a lawyer for more of the economically-vulnerable on serious cases who would otherwise be self-represented and providing front-end advice in the community without financial qualification barriers. The Plan supports particular responsiveness to overrepresentation of African Nova Scotians and First Nations in our criminal and child welfare systems. We will continue new partnerships with other stakeholders to support preventative problem-solving approaches for Nova Scotians who struggle with mental health and addiction issues in the context of criminal and family law problems. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We will grow our social justice services. Social justice is help with income and housing security issues (think CPP Disability or residential tenancy issues). Our roadmap is not without challenges: potholes may be deeper than anticipated. The Plan reflects the courage, determination and imagination of Legal Aid staff (and Private Bar who help deliver legal aid). Nova Scotians and our criminal and family justice systems depend upon a responsive Legal Aid Plan. Karen Hudson, QC Executive Director Mandate Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) is legislatively mandated to provide legal representation to vulnerable Nova Scotians. NSLA focuses on those areas of legal service that cannot otherwise be served by other government or private helping agencies. Namely, our focus is criminal, family and social justice law. Social justice is help with everyday legal issues that affect income and housing security (e.g. CPP 2

4 Disability appeals & residential tenancy matters) and, if not addressed, leads to greater intersection with criminal and family justice systems. We work collaboratively with other justice stakeholders to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our criminal and family justice systems. The mandate of the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission, in so far as Government funding permits, is: (a) (b) To deliver quality legal services to qualified applicants with priority for matters involving the liberty and civil rights of individual clients and for matters involving the integrity and protection of an individual's family; Such other legal services as Government may contract with the Commission to provide to individuals or groups. Government Priorities People NSLA provides legal help to economically-vulnerable Nova Scotians. As such, we protect constitutional rights and due process and promote economic stability and social well-being. Innovation NSLA embraces innovation to respond better to the legal needs of Nova Scotians and support greater efficiencies for criminal and family justice systems. Examples include: Using IT to connect better with Nova Scotians; collaboration on Video Conferencing and Differential Response initiatives within the Criminal and Family Justice Systems; providing help with everyday legal issues surrounding housing and income security; outreach to community organizations such as the Immigrant Services Association of NS and Mi kmaq Communities to provide community-based services; including providing province-wide advice counsel in our criminal and family courts in addition to full representation services. Criminal duty counsel supports early resolution. Family advice counsel helps address a growing number of Nova Scotians who are self-represented. Education NSLA is instrumental in the ability of Nova Scotians to understand and access justice to resolve disputes. If people don t have access to legal help, problems are ignored and become worse. If they do take steps but are self-represented, then justice systems are slowed down and outcomes are not as effective. Core Responsibilities Outcomes NSLA makes justice more accessible to those who struggle most (economically & historically vulnerable). We operate as a key stakeholder in ensuring that criminal and family justice systems operate efficiently and effectively. Goals Financial (1) Operate within budget and provide accountability; (2) Ensure allocation of resources reflect strategic priorities on the basis of need (simply put resources where most needed, most effective and provided with optimum efficiency). 3

5 Services (1) Prioritize criminal, family and social justice; (2) Provide services proportionally (continuum of service: information, summary advice, limited retainer, full service). Where on the continuum service provided, is determined by an evidence-based analysis and proportional approach to service both as to how much and by whom, i.e. lawyer or other staff or referral to other helping agency. Operations (1) Match staff resources with demand; (2) Be responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable; (3) Improve staff wellness; (4) Review operational processes through a work smarter lens. IT Maximized into daily operations to increase efficiencies and effectiveness. Actions Financial (1) Monthly financial reports to Executive with focus on allocation of resources to priorities, budget variance analysis, mitigation plans; (2) Monthly financial reports regarding certificate cost; (3) Quarterly t/c meetings with Audit Finance Committee (AFC) and Managing Lawyers; (4) Develop cost benefit analysis for e-payment process for certificates. Service (1) Maintain full service levels from Decrease certificate volume by 10% over fiscal year to be accomplished through offices acting against other offices in conflict situations as well as through monitoring by Managing Lawyers and handling more big cases in-house; (2) Increased use of contribution agreement protocol to increase legal aid in serious cases to working poor who would otherwise be self-represented litigants (SRL)(especially problematic in family law) and decrease applications for state-appointed counsel which are very costly to the Province; (3) Limited retainer: criminal-focused Duty Counsel and family-focused Summary Advice Counsel continue at 15/16 levels (demand has increased); (4) Expanded information website will contain 10% more legal information and will continue collaborative work (Criminal Justice Transformation Group, Department of Justice, Association des jurists d expression francaise de la Nouvelle-Ecosse, Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia) to develop and share public legal information; (5) Social Justice will implement an elder law focus (simple wills, personal directives). Operations (1) Demand resource assessment to ensure staff are located and focused where needed; (2) Support staff wellness by clarified operational protocols and access to right supports; (3) Client-first protocols to include standardized intake process, and wait time parameters and specific responsiveness to First Nations and applicants with mental health and addictions. Regional offices implement outreach and/or after hours walk in clinics and intentional collaboration with community and stakeholders (5 meetings per office with community stakeholders); (4) Prioritize Aboriginal Justice Initiative with focus on TRC Recommendations. IT (1) Client first utilize new website and social media platforms to bring more content, services to Nova Scotians (more legal information, online applications, online chat for SRLs). Implement feedback (how did we do?); (2) Internal review case file audits to assess IT client reminder utilization; (3) Ensure changes to Case Management System are operationalized; (4) Monthly case management data reports give quantitative analysis regarding service and operations; (5) Develop cost benefit analysis for case file digitization; (6) IT competencies for all staff re e-disclosure and video conferencing. Inputs We will require status quo funding at level at a minimum. Salaries, certificates and leaseholds comprise 90% of our budget with certificates presenting the most variability. We will incur a deficit of approximately $1 million even with status quo funding, but this will be covered by our unrestricted net assets. We will require a 5% increase ($1 million) in as unrestricted net assets will be depleted. 4

6 Performance Measures Financial (1) 2% Actual to budget expense variance; (2) Unqualified audits; (3) Budget allocated to strategic priorities; (4) Quantitative analysis of the effectiveness of contribution agreements; (5) Decision re certificate e-payment. Services (1) Full service and limited retainer maintained over prior year; certificates decreased by 10%; 3% increase in help to the working poor in serious cases; 10% increase in public legal information; 3% increase in social justice including elder law. Operations (1) Quantitative and qualitative analysis of operational protocol compliance; (2) Low voluntary turnover rate establish baseline beginning ; intentional focus on employee absence rates will be utilized as a new metric to identify trends and issues; (3) Staff continue to engage with community and stakeholders in addition to full caseloads (5 NSLA/Community stakeholder meetings per office); (4) Aboriginal services will continue in eight communities and professional development for staff will continue to incorporate aboriginal focus. IT (1) By increased public utilization of website (including online application and feedback) by 20% and social media baseline established; (2) Decision regarding case file digitization. 5

7 Commission Expenses Summary Commission Expenses Summary ($ thousands) Programs and Services Estimate Forecast Estimate Legal Aid Services 26,142 26,489 26,260 Total - Commission Expenses 26,142 26,489 26,260 Grant Revenue: Operating Grant (DOJ) 24,340 24,415 24,415 Employee Future Benefits Grant (DOF) Total Grant Revenue 24,990 25,065 25,065 Funded Staff (# of FTEs) Total Staff

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