Lesson 3 : Understanding Clients Needs Copy

The type of information, advice or guidance required depends on each individual person’s situation and their skills to solve problems. Some of the people you support may only need information that points them in the right direction, like the contact details of another agency or a phone call introduction to a support service.

Other scenarios you face may be more complex, where the person is unable to make decisions on their own or follow the advice given, in these cases the person may need more long-term support, including regular meetings or group work sessions.

Establishing the support needs of the people who use our services is an important aspect of the information, advice or guidance workers’ role.

There are many different ways to establish and understand the person’s (client’s) needs, including both informal and formal assessments. 

The Joint Committee on the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing of the AERA, APA and NCME (Joint Committee on Testing Practices, 2004) describes the definition of assessment as

“Any systematic method of obtaining information from tests and other sources, used to draw inferences about characteristics of people, objects, or programs.”

There are a variety of methods used by advisors to establish the information, advice or guidance needs of the clients or people they support. Some of these methods include: 

  • Informal discussion, talking with the clients and asking them open questions
  • Formally, using questionnaire or surveys
  • You could use interactive methods such as cards  which inform about the services on offer – the client reads the cards and chooses which ones they would like to hear about
  • By advising them of different organisations and assisting them to work out what they need. 

When establishing client needs, you may also identify any barriers they have which could prevent them from accessing information, advice or guidance. 

These are some of the barriers identified which have prevented clients using information, advice or guidance services 

  • Language barrier due to the client speaking a different language
  • Geographical barrier  due to the client not knowing the area well
  • Barriers to participation as the client is very shy and not confident
  • Financial barriers, client not being able to afford the services on offer

Barriers to accessing information, advice or guidance services.

There are many factors that may prevent a client from accessing IAG services. It could be that they do not know about the services available and some clients may face more than one barrier.

It is important for information, advice and guidance service providers and practitioners to be aware of the cultural, structural and service-related barriers that clients may experience or perceive. 

It is important to consider the experiences, challenges and issues of clients conjunction alongside those of service providers and practitioners, to see how best to improve the fit between service providers and clients. 

Read through the information about the barriers we have identified in the infographic.

Can you recognise any which are similar to the barriers faced by the people who you work with? 


Try this activity: 

In a recent study that looked into the barriers to accessing services for homeless people, 42% of the clients questioned said the location of the services was often a problem that prevented them from accessing the support they needed.


Many said that the location of services was too far away to get to, or that public transport was too complicated for them to be able to understand and navigate. 


If you were working to support a client who was facing these additional barriers – what could you do to help them overcome these?