Public and third sector portals and networks
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, eg 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.
Advicenow is an independent, not-for-profit website, run by the charity Law for Life. It provides accurate, practical information on rights and the law in England and Wales in the following areas: benefits, communications and media, consumer affairs, education and training, employment, environment and countryside, family and personal, government, law and rights, health and social care, housing and homelessness, immigration and nationality, money and tax, police and crime, transport, travel and leisure. There is also a searchable database of Top Picks links to external information and a Help Directory.
Citizens Advice 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.
The Law Centres Network provides access to all Law Centres who are independent and operate on a not-for-profit basis. They a free and independent professional legal service to people who live or work in their catchment areas, offering face-to-face legal advice and some run a telephone advice line. Some Law Centres also provide advice to community groups on issues such as legal structure and governance. All Law Centres specialise in social welfare law, covering some or all of the following areas: welfare rights, disability rights, immigration and asylum, housing and homelessness, employment rights, community care, discrimination, debt. Other areas of work might include: public law, mental health, family law, education rights, young people and children’s rights.
LawWorks is a charity which supports and develops pro bono activity across England and Wales, using their experience and understanding to ensure pro bono efforts are targeted where they can be most effective and have the greatest impact. The LawWorks Clinics Network provides free initial advice to individuals on various areas of social welfare law including employment law, housing matters, consumer disputes, debt and welfare rights.
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’s For the Public section includes guides which 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: buying a home, making a will, setting up a business, renting a home, renting out your property, getting a divorce, making a personal injury claim, probate, claiming asylum, problems at work, financial matters for older people, setting up home with your partner. Other sections cover getting expert help, an index of useful legal websites, using a solicitor, faqs, a legal glossary, paying for legal services.
Your Europe is an EU site providing help and advice for EU nationals and their families. There is detailed information on all aspects of Travel, Work & Retirement, Vehicles, Residence formalities, Education & Youth, Health, Family and Consumers. 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.
Other useful resources
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.