Advice and referrals

Shelter offers a range of advice and advocacy services which may benefit your clients. Our dedicated children’s service advice line should always be the first port of call for new cases involving children, young people or families. However, you can also get information about your clients’ rights from our advice pages, or make a referral to one of our casework services.

If you work with 16- and 17-year-olds who are homeless, send them the link to this film, which sets out what services should be available to them and how Shelter can help.

Telephone advice

Shelter’s Helpline supports agencies working with families who are experiencing housing problems.

This service is free, confidential and independent. Our specialist advisers are available from 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday and from 9am-5pm at weekends. Call 0808 800 4444.

If your client would prefer to talk directly with a Shelter adviser themselves, they too can call our national helpline for the general public on 0808 800 4444. However, please advise your client that the helpline gets very busy at times, and encourage them to keep trying. We answer calls as quickly as we possibly can.

Face to face advice

Shelter advice centres provide face-to-face advice, advocacy and representation. The Helpline may be able to make a referral for you, or you can find your nearest Shelter service by using our directory of advice services.

Many Shelter advice centres have legal aid contracts in issues such as debt, welfare benefits and community care, as well as housing. They can provide full casework services if your client is eligible. You can find out whether your client is likely to qualify for legal aid by using the Community Legal Advice legal aid calculator.

Children’s Legal Service

Our dedicated team of solicitors can take on cases in which the housing needs of children – both within families and unaccompanied teenagers – are a central factor. The children’s legal service is based in London but represents young people, children and families from across England.

The Children's Legal Service cannot accept direct referrals from members of the public, but we take referrals from any agency working with families or children who need legal representation in relation to a housing issue. The service is particularly interested in cases involving:

  • disabled children
  • 16 & 17 year olds
  • ‘Ground 8’ possession cases brought by housing associations where a tenant has rent arrears. Using this ground prevents the courts from using their discretionary powers to take contributing factors into account and can be a barrier to negotiating solutions  
  • homelessness cases in which the housing authority does not have a duty.

Web advice

The Get advice section of the Shelter website provide over 1,000 pages of straightforward, information aimed at the general public. It covers a range of housing-related issues, including eviction and repossession, arrears, benefits, tenants’ rights, homelessness and disrepair. There is a dedicated section on advice for young people.

This section of the site also offers a national directory of advice services and a number of practical tools for people seeking advice, including:

  • useful downloads such as sample letters and checklists
  • A free advice sheet covering your rights and options if you are homeless and aged between 16 and 17.
  • diagnostic tools to help users understand their rights and how to enforce them
  • links to related issues and resources available elsewhere on the web.

Your agency may also be interested in subscribing to Shelter Legal, our online housing law resource for professional audiences. A free ten-day trial is available.

What information will be needed to make a referral?

When you contact a Shelter service, you should aim to have some basic information about your clients to hand:

  • name, address (including postcode) and telephone number of the family
  • name, address and telephone number of your agency
  • for each member of the household: date of birth, ethnicity, gender, health issues
  • details of the local authority where the client currently lives, and of any other local authority involved in the case
  • details of the problem the client is experiencing and any actions taken thus far
  • details of the family's current housing situation (including, if they are renting, the type of tenancy they have)
  • any previous contact the client has had with Shelter.

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