Welfare rights officers, often known in the voluntary sector as advice workers, provide information and advice on a wide range of topics, including social security and disability benefits, housing issues, and debt management. The work can be stressful and frustrating but is also very rewarding.
Posts are likely to involve working with clients face-to-face, over the telephone and by letter or email.
Welfare rights officers may work as generalists, advising on any welfare benefit issue; alternatively they specialise, focusing on the issues facing a particular group of people, such as those with mental health problems, HIV, or the elderly.
Most welfare rights officers will be involved with some or all of the following:
Most welfare rights officers work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with occasional evening or weekend meetings or tribunals. There are often opportunities for part-time work and job-sharing.
Welfare rights officers are mainly based in advice centres open to the public, however, some local travel is involved and a car or driving licence is useful.
To be a welfare rights officer, you should:
Welfare rights officers work for independent advice centres, local authorities, health services, voluntary organisations, law centres, housing associations, and solicitors. Most opportunities are usually in large cities, often in the most deprived areas.
There are about 1,000 independent advice centres in the UK and over 500 Citizens Advice Bureaux. In addition there are about 140 DIAL UK (Disabilities Information and Advice) projects, and a number of other organisations that are part of the Law Centre Federation. Local authorities provide a welfare rights service and there are opportunities with national and local charities such as Shelter, Age Concern, Terrence Higgins Trust and the Scottish Low Pay Unit.
With experience it may be possible to move into supervisory and management posts. Some managers continue to do some direct work with the public. Welfare rights workers may also be able to move into more specialist advice work such as money advice.
Competition for posts is keen, and there are a limited number of paid posts. Short-term contracts are common.
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