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Welfare rights advice and advocacy in the United Kingdom

  2/6/2013
Some local authorities and voluntary sector organisations, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, employ paid or vounteer welfare rights advisers. These advisers usually offer free, impartial and independent advice, information and support on all aspects of social security benefits and tax credits, including free representation at a social security appeal tribunal, which are administered by the UK Ministry of Justice.

Welfare rights advice and representation is also provided by some solicitors, barristers and independent advisers or companies. These advisers may charge a fee or they might provide limited pro-bono (free) advice and assistance.

Welfare rights advisers generally offer expert lay legal advice in dealings with public departments, such as local authority Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit services, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Welfare rights advisers will generally:

    Check what benefits or tax credits people may be entitled to
    Assist with complex benefit application forms
    Advise and represent on all aspects of social security law, including entitlement to benefits, backdating, suspensions and overpayments
    Provide advocacy and representation before social security appeal Tribunals

Welfare rights advisers often use a case management system to help them manage their work. These can be paper based, computer based or online.

Welfare rights officers are often closely allied with campaigning groups and charities such as the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Citizens Advice Bureau and London Advice Service Alliance (LASA), for example. These organisations are respected for their training and publications, which are used extensively by advisers throughout the UK, as well as their campaigning activities.

Welfare rights advisers' professional organisation is the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers (NAWRA) at a UK level; Scotland has its own professional association, Rights Advice Scotland (RAS).
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