Our experienced Welfare Advisers have specialist training to offer you professional advice on a range of financial, practical and legal issues. Our aim is to advise you about possible solutions and options relating to financial, practical and legal issues, so that you can concentrate on your academic progress.
What can a Welfare Adviser help me with?
Most of our work is about helping you with your rights and entitlements, including:
- student finance (student loans, tuition fees, grants etc)
- fee status
- fee payment problems
- planning a budget
- dealing with debt
- immigration law
- international student issues
- financial support for student parents (childcare costs etc)
- postgraduate funding
- welfare benefits and tax credits
- disability benefits
- funding for re-take periods of study
- interrupting your studies, re-sitting, withdrawing or transferring
- extenuating circumstances affecting academic performance
- hardship funds and bursaries
- NHS funding
- funding from trusts and charities
- housing rights
- council tax
As well as helping you to find solutions to problems, we can also give you information and advice to help you to avoid problems before they happen. For example, we can help you to plan a budget, and check that you are getting all the funding that you are entitled to. This type of preventative advice can help you to make sure that practical and financial problems don't affect your academic progress.
Do I need an appointment?
In our reception area and on our website, we have information and guidance on most of the issues students ask us about. Our reception staff can also answer some basic queries. If you cannot find the information you need, you are likely to need specialist advice from a Welfare Adviser.
During the main College term-time (apart from College closure days), we offer drop-in sessions every weekday (Monday to Friday) afternoon .This means that you may be able to see a Welfare Adviser without booking an appointment.
When you arrive, please let the receptionist know you would like to see a Welfare Adviser. Drop-in sessions operate on a first come, first served basis. You can come to the reception to register for drop in from 1.30pm, and the available slots often fill up very quickly. The latest time you can arrive is 3.20pm, although often you will not be able to be seen if the slots have already been filled by other students who arrived earlier.
The receptionist will let you know what time you will be seen by a Welfare Adviser. You can either wait in our waiting area until it is your turn to be seen, or leave and come back at the time you have been allocated. Welfare advice drop-in sessions are 30 minutes per student and take place in a confidential one-to-one setting, in the same way as our 30-minute booked appointments.
If you would prefer to have a guaranteed appointment, and don't mind waiting a while, you can book an appointment for a specific time. You can book an appointment by visiting our reception in person, by telephone or by email.
Please note that not all queries require a one to one session with a Welfare Adviser - sometimes our frontline reception staff can answer your query, or direct you to the self help materials that our Welfare Advisers have produced for students or tell you about the group sessions on offer for your particular query. For example, we do not normally offer one to one drop in sessions with a Welfare Adviser for Tier 4 immigration application queries, as we offer group advice sessions for this issue instead. Our frontline reception staff will listen to your query and advise you how best we can help you. If your situation requires the specialist knowledge of one of our Welfare Advisers, you will certainly be offered the next available drop in session or a booked appointment.
Preparing for your appointment
Often there is no preparation you need to do, except for making sure you have all the relevant facts and information to discuss with your Welfare Adviser.We will need to see any relevant documents relating to the matter you are asking about.
Can I bring someone with me?
So that we can advise you properly, we normally expect you to attend your appointment on your own. However, if it is important to you that someone attends your appointment with you, this is normally fine. When you arrive, please tell our reception staff if you prefer this, so that they can consult with the Welfare Adviser you have an appointment with. Sometimes, we might ask to have a short conversation with you in private before your appointment begins, to help us to understand why you would prefer to be accompanied. A friend or relative can wait in our waiting area during your appointment.
When you arrive
Try to arrive five minutes before your appointment time. Our reception staff will need to ask you to fill in a form for our records, or for anonymously monitoring who is using the Service. This will not take long. They will also ask you to sign a statement showing that you understand our Code of Practice on confidentiality. You can read our Confidentiality Code of Practice in full here.
If you are late for a booked appointment, the Welfare Adviser may decide that it will be best if you book another appointment, or they may decide to meet with you for a short appointment. In our experience, it can be unhelpful to begin an appointment when there isn't enough time to advise you properly, and this is why the Welfare Adviser might decide it is best for you to book another appointment.
If you arrive early for a booked appointment, you will normally need to wait until the specified appointment time. If you have a reason why you would prefer to be seen early, please tell the receptionist when you arrive and they will check with the Welfare Adviser to see if this is possible.
If you are unable to attend your booked appointment, or find that you no longer need it, please contact the Advice and Counselling Service Reception as soon as possible, so that your appointment can be offered to another student, and you can be offered an alternative.
At your appointment
Your appointment will always be in private, in one of our consulting rooms. If you have any concerns about privacy or confidentiality, please ask us at any time during your appointment.
We will ask you to explain your enquiry or problem, and explore possible options with you. We might also ask you about other aspects of your situation so that we can advise you about other options for improving your finances or practical life. Often, we are able to tell students about options and solutions that they didn't know they were entitled to. In some cases, we will also explain your obligations under the law or under QM regulations.
We will usually offer you advice and information about your rights and entitlements so that you can pursue options or achieve solutions yourself. However, sometimes you will need our help to achieve a solution. If this happens we can advocate on your behalf, with your permission, perhaps by formally negotiating with someone or by representing you at an appeal process. Usually this happens when your rights and entitlements are based on a point of law or formal rules, and you need help to challenge a decision or negotiate a compromise. The most common examples are: eligibility for grants and loans, immigration, welfare benefits and council tax. We can also speak to other staff at Queen Mary on your behalf if you would like us to.
There might not be a solution to your problem. If this happens, we will advise you about the implications of your situation and options that you might need to consider.
Our advice to you will be based on your individual needs and priorities. This means that you control the process and we will not impose decisions on you. Our role is to explain your rights and any options and solutions available to you. You can then choose how to proceed.
We will take brief notes during your appointment so that we can write up accurate case notes afterwards. This is helpful if we have to do some follow-up work for you, or if you come back for another appointment. Under the Data Protection Act, you have the right to see all notes kept about you. For more information about how we store information about you, see our Confidentiality Code of Practice.
Sometimes we can't give you all the information you need immediately. We might need to check the law or find out more detailed information. We might also need you to show us further documents or provide more information about your circumstances before we can advise you on every aspect of your query.
If we agree to do some follow-up work on your behalf after your appointment, we will agree with you when we will do this and how we will tell you the outcome (by email, by phone, or by sending you a copy of a letter that we write). You will not normally need to come back for a further appointment just to learn the outcome.
At the end of the appointment, we might decide with you that there is further work that needs to be done, and will either offer you another appointment or ask you to come back to a drop in session. We will normally do this rather than let your appointment overrun beyond 30 minutes.
You may feel that you need to meet with us again about the same issue, and we will discuss with you whether this is necessary.
After your appointment
Your meeting with a Welfare Adviser is confidential within the Advice and Counselling Service. We do not liaise with or report back to anyone without your permission, either at Queen Mary or elsewhere, even if that person has referred you to see us.
If we have agreed to do something before seeing you or contacting you again, we will have agreed this with you clearly. However, we may have also agreed with you that you need to do something, or provide more information, before we can take further action, and we will normally agree a deadline with you by which you need to complete the task. It is your responsibility to contact us as agreed. If you do not do so, we will not normally contact you.
Our follow-up work will be carried out as soon as reasonably possible, and in accordance with the time frames already agreed with you. When this is not possible, we will let you know why this has happened and advise you of the new time frame.
If we have advised you about an application to the Access to Leaning Fund, University of London Hardship Fund or Dean’s Benevolence Fund, it is important to understand that we do not then make the decision on your application. Welfare Advisers are present at meetings to consider non-standard applications and exceptional circumstances, but in an advisery capacity only. This is necessary so that the administrators of the funds, and other decision-makers, are able to make informed decisions about cases that may involve complex funding, benefit, budgeting or immigration issues.
However, if you want us to discuss your application on your behalf at the meeting, perhaps to explain a complicated or very personal issue, we can do this.
We might have agreed to prepare a letter or document for you to collect, or to read and approve before sending. You can simply ask at reception to collect the document. You do not normally need an appointment just to collect a document.
If you would like a further appointment in the future, you can do this while you are still studying at QM. Ex-students may sometimes use the Service, although the extent of the provision will be limited and in accordance with our Access Policy.
Welfare Advisers currently employed in the Advice and Counselling Service at Queen Mary are able to offer immigration advice and services covering general casework on immigration matters at Level 2 in categories 2 and 3 only of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner competency requirements (http://www.oisc.gov.uk/). If you need immigration advice and services relating to any other categories in level 2, or at level 3, or otherwise outside our areas of expertise, we will help you identify external practitioners competent to provide such advice or services.