Legal Aid in Nova Scotia will expand to cover social justice issues such as housing and income assistance.

“Legal Aid is trying to tackle some of the root causes of crime and family problems,” said Ann Marie MacInnis, a managing lawyer at the Sydney Legal Aid office.

Many clients lack secure housing and/or food, she said, and that can increase the chances of people committing crimes and getting divorced.

"In terms of providing assistance to people where their social assistance is being denied, perhaps unfairly, or likewise in the area of Canada Pension [Plan] and workers comp, things of that nature,” she said.

“Trying to assist people that otherwise perhaps would have been reliant on family, friends, and other community groups to help."

Don't assume

Jill Perry, also a managing lawyer at Legal Aid in Sydney, said they will try to help all who ask for it.

"There's two things people should not assume about Legal Aid anymore: a) don't assume you don't qualify for Legal Aid; and b) don't assume that the problem that you’re having is something that Legal Aid doesn't cover,” she said.

“Because historically, I believe people have tended to view Legal Aid as something that's available basically only if you’re on social assistance and only if you’re going through a divorce or charged with something."

The lawyers hope to do more with the same resources, so staff will have to find ways to fit the new duties in with the old ones.