What is an advice centre?

There are advice and law centres all over the country. But what can they help you with?

 Advice centres and Law Centres tend to deal with things like:

  • benefits
  • debt
  • housing rights
  • consumer problems
  • problems at work
  • immigration problems
  • getting services from your council

But not all advice centres are the same. Some offer advice on a range of subjects; others specialise in a particular area, such as benefits, debt or housing advice. Some centres offer help to a particular group like young or disabled people. 

Different advice centres offer different levels of help. Some can only give you information or initial advice and arrange for you to see a specialist adviser or solicitor if your problem is complex or outside their area of expertise. However if an advice centre has expertise in dealing with your type of problem they might be able to solve it all for you and, if necessary, even represent you in court or at a tribunal. 

Many advice centres employ some professional advisers and may also use trained volunteers. Some, like Law Centres, will also employ solicitors.

Advice centres are often based in their own premises in high streets or shopping centres. They may run ‘outreach’ sessions in places like GP’s surgeries, hospitals and community centres. Some centres can give you advice over the phone or by email or may even be able to arrange a home visit if you need one.

Advice centres provide a free service because they are funded by government or charities. They are run by independent management committees. It is their job to make sure that the centre acts in your best interests, represents your views, and is not influenced by the local council or anyone else who funds them.

What’s it like at an advice centre?

Advice centres tend to be informal but very busy. You might have to wait a while for an appointment, or wait your turn at a drop-in session. Most centres don’t have lots of money to spend on decoration and facilities, so they may look a bit basic! However, advisers at advice centres can: 

  • give you information, advice and guidance
  • explain your options and the effects of choosing one option over another
  • negotiate with the person or organisation causing you the problem
  • write letters or make phone calls on your behalf 

See our Help Directory for information on how to find an advice centre near you.

 December 2017

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