→ Advisory Council members are pleased that budget increases from 2008 appear to have been maintained. The Advisory Council also commends legal aid lawyers for providing good service for their clients. However, as in 2009, access to legal help for family matters for women and men with low and middle incomes is inadequate. The justice system is not accessible in
a way that lets people solve their own problems; under the current system, there is no way around needing a lawyer in many cases. The Advisory Council would like to play a role in imagining and supporting better options; in the meantime, we need more family law legal aid lawyers, for the criteria for legal aid eligibility to be changed and expanded, and for more resources to be put into materials for self-represented litigants.
→ Statistics bear out women’s need for legal aid, according to figures from Women in PEI: A Statistical Review. In 2008-2009, women made up 75% of family and civil law legal aid recipients. In the same year, 68% of the 863 new referrals to Victim Services were women. Comparing the family income of couple families and lone-parent families also points to the challenge of paying for legal help while making a major family transition such as separation or divorce. The median income for PEI lone-parent families in 2006 was $30,900, compared to $62,300 for couple families. Women lead more than 80% of lone-parent families in PEI.
Improved access to family law legal aid lawyers: D
This is an excerpt from the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women 2011 Equality Report Card for PEI, released in June 2011 and based on information updated to May 30, 2011. The Advisory Council is republishing one area of assessment each week on this blog. For more information, visit the Advisory Council on the Status of Women website.