By: Simon B
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Getting help from your local citizens advice bureau
There’s a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in most towns in the UK and several in the larger cities. Each bureau is a charity run by a management committee of local people and is staffed mainly by volunteers. Many of the bigger CAB’s have specialist workers, such as money advisers and people who deal mainly with benefits problems or employment issues.
CAB’s have a wealth of information available to them, and the workers are trained to research that information and help you to work out where you stand in any given situation. Because there are often slight differences in the laws between England and Wales, and Scotland and Northern Ireland, each has its own relevant information. Bureaux offer free, independent, impartial advice. They don’t charge, and they don’t judge. Many people are loath to go to CAB because they assume it’s a Government organisation, but that’s not the case.
You shouldn’t expect the advisers to sort out your problems for you. They’re there to help you sort them out for yourself and give you the information, advice, and support you need. If you need help with filling in forms or you need extended support to deal with complex debt problems, you’ll get it. If the CAB isn’t the best place to get help or if you need more specialist help than it can offer – such as a solicitor – the advisers can point you in the right direction. CAB’s are busy, and you may find that you have to sign up for a waiting list or an appointment system to get the right adviser to help with your particular problem. Whatever your problem, CAB is a good place to start. You can find contact details in your local phone book or at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
Along similar lines to CAB’s, your town may have a Law Centre or another advice-providing organisation, such as an advice centre specialising in consumer issues or a money-advice unit that can help you with debt problems. Take a look in your local phone book for contact details of a suitable organisation, try www.adviceuk.org.uk for the details of advice services or www.lawcentres.org.uk – call 020-7387-8570 for details of a Law Centre near you.