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Government and third sector portals
Gov.uk is the top level site for all government services and official bodies and there is a mass of information available: “The best place to find government services and information”. You can search by a general topic, e.g. education and learning, driving and transport, crime, justice and the law, money and tax, benefits, without needing to know what actual departments – national or local – are involved. Detailed and advanced searches are also available.
Information on Legal Aid provides free information, help and advice direct to the public on a range of common legal issues. Links are provided to approved information providers, including but not limited to solicitors, under the appropriate topic.
adviceUK is the UK’s largest support network for free, independent advice centres. It was formed in 1979 as the Federation of Independent Advice Centres (FIAC). They see the provision of free information and advice as a vital contribution to helping individuals and communities in need to enforce their rights and improve their quality of life. adviceUK has a regional structure which mirrors the Government Office regions of the UK. You can search on the site to find organisations by subject, e.g. housing or immigration, or by geographical area. They do not give advice directly to the public but help the viewer find the most appropriate organisation to do so. You can search for your nearest advice centres.
The Law Society has launched a series of guides for members of the public to explain how to get help for problems that commonly arise. The guides are written “in plain English” and there are explanatory videos at various points as well. The following topics are covered:
Your guide to buying a home
Your guide to making a will
Your guide to setting up a business
Your guide to renting a home
Your guide to renting out your property
Your guide to getting a divorce
Your guide to making a personal injury claim
Your guide to probate
Your guide to claiming asylum
Your guide to problems at work
Your guide to financial matters for older people
Your guide to setting up home with your partner
Advicenow is a project of Advice Services Alliance, the coordinating body for independent advice services in the UK. There is an A to Z of resources and the site provides links to information on over 200 websites, each with a description of what resources are available, categorised by the major topic concerned, e.g. Benefits, Communications and Media, Consumer Affairs, Education and training, and so on. A recent addition is a section called Self Help which includes Guides on handling legal problems, e.g. Dealing with debt, Getting your deposit back, Getting tax credits and so on, and a Tracker Tool which enables someone to store a record of all the calls, meetings, letters, and notes that they have made about their problem.
The Advice Guide (previously Citizens Advice Bureau) provides extensive and detailed information on Benefits, Civil Rights, Communications, Consumer Affairs, Education, Employment, Family Matters, Health, Housing, Immigration, Legal System, Tax, and Travel. The viewer can also search the site for particular topics or keywords. You can find a local office by naming the town or area. Citizens Advice Scotland is a separate site.
Your Europe Advice is an EU advice service for the public providing personalised advice to EU nationals on their rights under EU law. They work closely with SOLVIT, a problem-solving network that deals with problems between individuals or companies and the authorities in another country, in cases where there is a possible misapplication of EU law.
Law Centres provide a free and independent professional legal service to people who live or work in their catchment areas. The site lists the addresses of the constituent law centres. There is also a very comprehensive list of links to organisations involved in law rights and citizens’ issues, including disability, immigration, benefits, equal opportunities, health and housing.
The Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales has formal powers to resolve complaints about lawyers, free to the person with the complaint. The service is open to all members of the public, very small businesses, charities, clubs and trusts. It has been set up by the Office for Legal Complaints under the Legal Services Act 2007. The aim is to simplify the system and make sure consumers have access to an independent expert to resolve complaints.
Liberty is a site from Human Rights and civil Liberties organisation Liberty on Human Rights topics. The site used to provide information from Liberty’s legal team on these topics but it seems now to be more of a publicity body for the organisation. However, there is a section of the site called Get Advice which you can access by email or by phone (at certain times).
Ombudsmen (British and Irish Ombudsmen Organisation) provides information on all the ombudsmen available to the individual who believes that they have received an injustice from a public body. There are a lot of them, including Health Services, Local Government, Legal Services, Parliamentary and Police Services Ombudsmen.
UK Law Online, based at Leeds University, provides a general description of how the UK legal system works.
Nicholas Nicol, Barrister & Mediator of 1 Pump Court, specialises in housing, property and public law and offers case briefings and articles in those areas, plus an introduction to the English legal system (in both English and Spanish).
Legal Services Agency is a Scottish charity offering legal assistance to the disadvantaged. Housing and social welfare law are especially covered and all initial advice is free. The Agency is funded by local authorities and the Scottish Office.