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Sources of help and advice

Disclaimer – please read
This page does not apply outside Great Britain.
Last updated 21st June 2013 (part update 4th March 2021).

This page lists possible sources of help and advice (but does not aim to give recommendations). Some sources may not apply to the whole of the UK. There is a separate page linking to Guidance and Codes of Practice.

Trade Unions

Are you a member of a trade union? Trade unions very often have a free legal service for members. This will typically cover work-related disputes but some unions cover any legal problem.

Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS)

Contact details for this free service are on its website: www.equalityadvisoryservice.com.

It replaced the Equality and Human Rights Commission helpline which closed in September 2012.

ACAS

ACAS (www.acas.org.uk) can be approached on employment issues. They have a helpline giving free help and information on work issues.

They can also arrange for a conciliation officer to help settle a potential or actual tribunal claim.

In Northern Ireland the Labour Relations Agency (www.lra.org.uk) has a similar function.

Stamma/ British Stammering Association

Stamma has a helpline service stamma.org/get-support/talk-someone. This does not offer legal advice but can:

  • provide support and a listening ear for people who stammer (or parents of children who stammer) on discrimination and other issues; and
  • help employers, service providers and others wanting to know how to deal with staff, job applicants, customers and other people who stammer.

Employment stammering networks

Some companies and organisations have networks of staff who stammer. There may be one in your employer, or you could start one up. They can provide support and networking with other employees who stammer, and may have links to management. See Employment stammering networks.

Education

Disability Rights UK runs a Disabled Students Helpline (disabilityrightsuk.org).

STUC (Stammerers Through University Consultancy) at www.stuc-uk.org supports students and staff in higher education who stammer.

At a university, the disability officer or indeed one’s personal tutor will often be able to help. The other sources of advice on this page will often also deal with education.

Advice agencies (other than private solicitors)

Disability Law Service

Provides potentially free legal advice for disabled people throughout Great Britain, and sometimes representation (mainly in London). However what they can offer may change: check their website. www.dls.org.uk.

Citizens Advice Bureaux

CABs can often help, or may tell you a local organisation who can help. The Citizens Advice Bureaux website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk helps you find your local office, and their online “adviceguide” gives basic advice and information on your rights.

Law Centres

Law Centres may provide free advice if you live or work in the catchment area. The Law Centres Federation website (www.lawcentres.org.uk) tells you about them and helps you find if there is one in your area.

Civil legal advice

Free and confidential legal advice in England and Wales if you’re eligible for legal aid. www.gov.uk/civil-legal-advice

Equality and Human Rights Commission

In exceptional cases, the Equality and Human Rights Commission may consider a case to be of a strategic nature, and be willing to take it on or fund it. See Equality and Human Rights Commission: Strategic litigation.

United Legal Access

United Legal Access unitedlegalaccess.com is a group of volunteer lawyers providing free initial legal advice, online. It includes employment law.

Solicitors firms

You can go to a solicitors firm. You should check they have expertise in the area you want. Find a solicitor (lawsociety.org.uk) lets you search for solicitors by expertise. Often solicitors will give free initial advice, which might include funding options for a case, including no win no fee (below).

Didlaw didlaw.com is a niche employment law boutique specialising in employment advice around disability and discrimination. Karen Jackson there is co-author of the Law Society’s book Disability Discrimination: Law and Case Management, published April 2013. (She and I are also contributors to Discrimination Law and Occupational Health Practice, edited by Diana Kloss & John Ballard, published November 2012).

Larger solicitors firms which are active on behalf of individuals in areas covered by this website include Slater & Gordon www.slatergordon.co.uk/employment-law-solicitors/discrimination-at-work/ and Leigh Day www.leighday.co.uk/our-services/employment/discrimination/.

Outside of employment, as regards provision of services and higher education (eg universities), a firm which does a lot of work on disability discrimination is Fry Law frylaw.co.uk. Fry Law have worked with an insurance company to create a new insurance policy to help with an issue of claimants potentially being exposed to other side’s costs: Legal firm’s insurance link-up could open access to Equality Act justice (disabilitynewsservice.com), September 2020.

Of course, many other solicitors firms will also provide advice on disability discrimination.

Paying for legal advice – insurance, no win no fee etc

Legal aid

See below Legal aid.

Legal costs insurance

You may have insurance covering legal costs, without realising it. Check your home insurance, car insurance, and any insurance that may come as a benefit with your bank account. Legal costs insurance should include fees of a solicitor to advise and represent you.

No win, no fee

Alternatively, a solicitor may be able to give advice on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. You should discuss this with the solicitor. One thing to discuss will be an insurance policy to meet the other side’s legal costs if need be, and whether or not there are any further costs you might have to pay.

More…

Finally, this page (and www.etclaims.co.uk/getting-advice/) includes various possible sources of free legal advice.

See also blog post: Should I pay for legal advice (etclaims.co.uk), August 2010.

Legal aid

Free legal advice through legal aid may be available for those whose income and capital is below certain limits. (There is a different legal aid scheme in Scotland (mygov.scot), not discussed here.)

Legal aid is available for discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010 (LASPO Act 2012 Sch1 Part 1 para 43) if one meets criteria as to one’s financial means and the merits of the case. Civil legal aid generally falls into two categories: ‘legal help’ which encompasses initial advice and assistance, including help to correspond and negotiate with the other party; and ‘legal representation’ by a solicitor or a barrister. Legal representation is not available in the employment tribunal other than on appeal, only ‘legal help’, unless exceptional funding is granted. Other employment claims such as unfair dismissal are not normally eligible for legal aid. There is a Telephone Gateway to access legal aid for discrimination.

Legal aid: Exceptional case funding (ECF)

Normally legal aid is only available for specified types of case. However, legal aid by way of ‘exceptional case funding’ can be given where human rights or EU rights require. One relevant factor will be if the person has a characteristic which makes it difficult for them to represent themself, such as a communication issue. www.publiclawproject.org.uk/exceptional-case-funding/, www.gov.uk/guidance/legal-aid-apply-for-exceptional-case-funding, and www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/topics/legal-aid/exceptional-case-funding-guidance-for-solicitors.

Exceptional funding might include funding for advocacy in an employment tribunal or (for schools) an SEND Tribunal (lag.org.uk), or help in a non-Equality Act case for which legal aid would not normally be available at all. You still need to be financially eligible for legal aid.

There are forms and guidance (gov.uk) on exceptional funding, including the Lord Chancellor’s Exceptional Funding Guidance (Non-Inquests) (pdf). (The courts found another piece of guidance on exceptional funding to be inaccurate: The Queen on the application of Joanna Letts v The Lord Chancellor (bailii.org), 2015).

In February 2019 the government said in Legal Support: The Way Ahead (pdf, gov.uk), page 14, that by end of 2019 it would seek to improve and simplify guidance and processes for accessing exceptional funding.

January 2020: Exceptional case funding scheme failing, report reveals (lawgazette.co.uk).

Volunteer lawyers

The Free Representation Unit (www.thefru.org.uk) provides legal advice, case preparation and advocacy in tribunal cases. Individuals cannot approach it direct, but only through a referral agency such as a subscribing Citizens Advice Bureau or solicitor (there is a list of agencies on the FRU website).

Advocate, previously called the Bar Pro Bono Unit, at www.weareadvocate.org.uk can put people in touch with barristers who are willing to advise or represent clients free in deserving cases. It used to require a referral but you can now apply to it direct. It covers England and Wales; there may be similar organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

LawWorks (www.lawworks.org.uk) is a charity which aims to provide free inital legal advice to individuals and community groups who cannot afford to pay for it and who are unable to access legal aid.

See also United Legal Access above.

Video

15 ways to get FREE legal advice by Daniel Barnett, an employment barrister. There is at least one update in the comments on the YouTube page.

Further sources

Links to relevant websites are also available on specific webpages and generally on the links page.

20th anniversary of stammeringlaw, 1999-2019