Birmingham City Council managers have admitted they made a mistake in ordering neighbourhood office staff not to give face-to-face benefit and council tax advice.
The U-turn comes after Unison union claimed even some of the most vulnerable visitors to neighbourhood offices were told to telephone the call centre or use the council website.
It accused the council of cutting corners on advice.
Unison convenor David Hughes said: “Many residents need to resolve problems face-to-face rather than by impersonal telephones or computer systems.
“An interview with experienced and well trained members of staff is needed to resolve many problems.”
He said there are not enough public phones and computers in offices to cope with demand and said that some desperate residents refused face-to-face advice could become aggressive to staff.
“Moreover, the instruction will leave the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable without the access to the services they need.”
The neighbourhood offices are currently facing a 50 per cent cut in staffing.
But the council admitted that the instruction needed rewriting so that staff can help some of the most vulnerable people.
A spokesman said: “The instruction to managers at the neighbourhood offices is incorrect and will be reworded to capture the true intent of the council.”
He said that the aim is get the majority of cases dealt with online or by phone.
But he added: “The most complex cases will continue to be dealt with at our offices on a face-to-face basis, but there are many simple queries and questions that can be dealt with online or via a phone call to our contact centre.”