For those seeking basic guidance or those who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, there are a wealth of sources available on line, by telephone and in person.
To get a brief outline of your rights or how to proceed when facing a legal issue, the first port of call should be the internet:
The database available at www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk
contains leaflets, factsheets and links to relevant websites. Topics covered include: benefits, consumer affairs, employment; family, health and social care, housing, immigration and nationalit, tax and crime. The information is available in English, Welsh, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Turkish and Urdu. It also has a legal aid calculator and debt management tool.
The Citizens Advice Bureau website
provides answers to frequently asked questions as well as factsheets covering: benefits, employment, tax and debts, family, health, housing and education, consumer affairs and travel, discrimination, civil rights and immigration, as well as general information about the legal system
The website www.advicenow.org.uk
has guides covering family, employment, immigration, consumer and money issues, problems with benefits and housing. It also collates links to other organisations covering the same areas as the Community Legal Advice website.
The Community Legal Advice organisation can also be accessed through other means. The helpline -- 0845 345 4 345 -- can be telephoned from 9:00am to 6:30pm, Monday to Friday. Calls cost no more than 4p per minute from a BT landline. Calls from mobiles are usually more.
You can get a return call within 24 hours by completing a form on the web site or texting ‘legalaid’ and your name to 80010.
The telephone is available in many languages and those with hearing difficulties can use Minicom Type-Talk.
Free advice can be obtained in person by visiting one of many centres around the country.
Community Legal Advice Centres and Networks provide free general legal advice at an initial appointment with further specialist advice available if you are eligible for legal aid. Details of their four centres are listed at http://www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk/en/about/clacs.jsp
The Law Centre Federation provides free advice specialising in social welfare law, including: welfare rights, disability rights, immigration and asylum, housing, employment rights, community care, and all forms of discrimination. Other areas of work vary according to local need and may include public law, mental health, education rights and young people and children’s rights. To find your local centre visit www.lawcentres.org.uk/lawcentres/detail/find/
The Citizens Advice Bureaux can provide free legal information. To find one in your area visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice.htm
The Free Representation Unit can provide legal representation for cases in Employment Tribunals and social security appeals in the Social Security and Child Support Appeals Tribunals as well as some immigration and criminal injury compensation cases. The unit can only assist if you have already commenced your case or appeal, you have been given a hearing date and your case is referred by one of their referral agencies listed at www.freerepresentationunit.org.uk/default.asp?itemID=188&itemTitle=Referral
Law Works is a pro bono solicitor’s service that can be applied for by visiting a Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau or one of their clinics listed at http://lawworks.org.uk/?id=387