How to find local help and advice – the search technique

The way to find local help and advice will of course depend on the nature of your problem.

If you are anxious or stressed it can be hard to focus on exactly what help you need—you can end up going round in circles, or feeling hopeless because you don’t know where to turn. So rule number one is —don’t panic!

That’s because it’s likely that advice from a variety of services will be around locally, either to support you directly, or else to signpost you to the most appropriate place for help. Then you can make contact either by post, phone or email or by visiting in person.

Whilst not exactly a technique—there is an organised way to find help and advice which should save time and stress and help you feel more in control of things. Rest assured that there are specialist telephone helplines, organisations and support groups to advise on all kinds of difficulties that people commonly face. What you need are one or two key contacts and you can take it from there.

Kate Whitehead of Carers Northumberland advises ‘When people are facing problems they can feel quite isolated. Talking to someone outside the situation can be a good first step, and if you find a support group, whose members have similar issues, it can be extremely helpful’

Here are some of the most common topics advisers deal with —there are many more:

Legal affairs
Consumer advice
Employment Issues

Health advice
Health emergencies
Health complaints
Mental health advice
Social and emotional support
Befriending schemes

Housing and sheltered housing advice
Finding help with care
Home repairs
Home security
Transport help
Anti social behaviour
Domestic violence

Think who might be best to advise on your problem. Try to look at it from all angles, as there may well be more than one issue.

E.g. If you have had a fall at home you might need a reliable means to call for emergency help, possible medical attention and also help to fix a loose stair carpet.

Set about locating the right service. Start by contacting one of the larger trusted organisations who will signpost you on if they can’t help themselves. Be prepared to refine your search as you go along to find one or more expert advisers for the issues causing the problem. Here are the organisations to try first. Always keep their details handy at home, as they will be able to deal with a range of problems.

The County Council—social care, housing, housing repair, bereavement
The Citizens Advice Bureau—consumer advice and scams, money, benefits and pensions advice, debt.
Age UK branch—benefits advice, health and care, isolation, advocacy help.
The Healthcare Trust—health concerns.
Police non-emergency number– anti-social behaviour, personal safety, disability hate crime.
Carers Northumberland— accessing help, personal support, your rights, entitlements at work.

Hopefully your problem will be solved with your first contact, but if not carry on working through the list. A phone call is often the quickest way to sort simple matters out, but for a more complex problem it’s a good idea to put things in writing. Letters or emails provide a clear record of the situation which you can refer back to as necessary. Keeping notes of whom you have spoken to—with the date—is a good habit to get into.

If you are unable to put your own case —a local advocacy service may be able to help you through it. Age UK, the CAB and groups such as Healthwatch will be able to advise about these.

So don’t be daunted! Although getting help sometimes seems like snakes and ladders— the best way through is to keep a clear view of the problem, keep notes and just keep trying!

© Heather Alabaster 2015

NB: In the annual edition of the Golden Guide we publish Northumberland and North East contacts for major organisations as well as many more specialist support agencies, charities and groups. Please see the Outlets section of the website for how to get hold of a free copy of the guide.

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