Previous Courses

ACFA Training has been providing training courses on social welfare law for over 20 years. The courses have all been run in Bristol but have attracted advice workers and other professionals from many other parts of the South West.

The emphasis has always been welfare benefits law but other fields have also been covered, for example debt, housing, immigration and employment law. Some of our previous courses are listed below. If you'd like to see any of them run again please contact the ACFA Training Administrator

Introduction to Debt  

Trainer: Simon Dowling

This course covered all types of debt (both priority and non-priority) and all areas of debt advice. It included information on the legislation behind the different types of debt, and the recovery methods available to creditors. The course discussed strategies and solutions to debt problems available to service users, and had a section dedicated to bailiffs including the new legislation introduced in April this year. The course contained many exercises based on everyday practice including analysing and sorting through creditor paperwork and completing financial statements.

Financial Statement Training  

Trainer: Dan Bicknell

This half‐day course was designed for frontline workers to be able to compile comprehensive, accurate and effective common financial statements for service users, to be used for a variety of purposes. The course followed a client scenario and uses group discussion and several practical exercises completing common financial statements.

Asking the Sexual Orientation Question  

Trainer: Jo McDonald

This course enabled attendees to:

  • understand the appeal process and time
  • understand why equalities monitoring is important
  • refresh their understanding of the law
  • explore the issues/difficulties they have around asking the questions
  • have a better understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality
  • understand why some people might want to be asked the questions
  • discuss their anxieties
  • develop ways of asking the questions with which they comfortable
  • find a pragmatic way forward for them personally and for their organisations 

The course covered:

  • The Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty (brief summary)
  • Issues for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people
  • Issues for Transgender people
  • Confidentiality
  • What the LGB and T community in Bristol have said about monitoring
  • Why we monitor and how the information is used
  • Discussion around people's fears and anxieties about asking the questions
  • Practical exercises and a practical way forward

Universal Credit  

Trainer: Barbara Alexander

This course was suitable for advisers with a working knowledge of the existing benefit system and covered the basic principles of Universal Credit (UC) to ensure advisers were ready for the introduction of UC in their area for new jobseeker’s allowance claimants.

By the end of the course participants were able to understand:

  • the entitlement rules
  • the claims and payment process
  • the amounts and how to calculate awards
  • how conditionality and sanctions will be applied
  • the potential impact on clients

Introduction to Benefits  

Trainer: Dan Bicknell

This course covered the vast majority of benefits that frontline workers are likely to come across with their service users. The course included means‐tested, contribution based, and criteria‐specific benefits (eg Attendance Allowance). The course involved group discussions and included exercises for smaller groups looking at individual service user scenarios including analysing a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) application. The course also covered welfare reform ‐ both to date and upcoming ‐ its implementation and implications.

Welfare Benefits Updater  

Trainer: Gary Vaux

This course covered recent and forthcoming changes to social security benefits and discussed the implications of these changes.

By the end of the course participants were able to:

  • understand recent changes in social security benefits and tax credits
  • examine recent changes including universal credit, personal independence payment, housing benefit, conditionality and sanctions, and benefits for EEA nationals
  • understand the implications of the changes for clients

Preparing for First Tier Tribunal Appeals  

Trainer: Barbara Alexander

This was a course aimed at advisers and support workers who wanted to help their clients prepare for welfare benefit appeal hearings but who could not provide representation. It prepared advisers and support workers to help their clients to challenge benefit decisions at tribunal and maximise their chances of winning. The day included a talk from a leading First Tier Tribunal Chair, followed by a Question and Answer session.

By the end of the course participants were able to:

  • understand recent changes in social security benefits and tax credits
  • understand the appeal process and time limits
  • understand the appeal papers
  • recognise evidence and legal arguments First‐tier Tribunal judges find persuasive
  • obtain and submit that relevant evidence
  • prepare statements and submissions
  • request directions and postponements
  • prepare appellants for the hearing 

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - Reconsiderations and Appeals  

Trainer: Gary Vaux

This  course  examined  the  Personal  Independence  Payment  (PIP)  and  looked  specifically  at  how to  challenge decisions, up to First Tier level.

By the end of the course participants were able to:

  • prepare PIP claims to minimise the need for reconsiderations and appeals
  • support service users to claim PIP successfully if initial claim is refused
  • understand the reconsideration process
  • collect evidence for recons and appeals ‐ what works and what doesn’t!
  • know how the appeals process works and what tactics can be used in First Tier Tribunals
  • know how to identify errors of law that could lead to Upper Tier Tribunal challenges

Benefit Sanctions and Conditionality  

Trainer: Gary Vaux

This course looked at how 'conditionality' is applied to benefit claimants; who is exempt and when; how benefit sanctions are applied and how to challenge them. 

By the end of the course participants were able to:

  • understand what the DWP mean by conditionality and who is affected/exempted
  • understand the circumstances when sanctions may be applied to JSA, IS and ESA claimants
  • understand the circumstances when sanctions may be applied to Universal Credit claimants (including p/t workers)
  • identify the different levels of sanctions
  • examine practical solutions to avoid sanctions
  • understand how to challenge sanctions, including using caselaw

Offering a Quality Advice Service: An Advice Quality Standard Overview  

Trainer: Cas Brooks

This course is designed for senior managers and/or trustees who are looking to reflect on and improve the quality of the advice service they deliver. Organisations may be considering applying for the AQS Quality Mark although this is not a requirement, and there may be an opportunity for 1-2-1 consultancy after the workshop for those organisations who would like to build on their learning.
Learning Outcomes
1. Improving quality throughout advice services (including File Reviews, Supervision, Appraisals, Training, Use of other professionals, Signposting & Referrals, Conflict of Interest, etc.)
2. Improving quality across the organisation as a whole (including Business Planning, Baseline Standards, Service User Charters etc.)
3. Understanding the Advice Quality Standard
4. Peer Reviews & Audits

Communication and Client Interactions  

Trainer: Dan Bicknell

This half-day course was designed for frontline workers who work with clients. It looked at different types of communication, how conflicts arise, and what barriers to change service users may have. The course involved group discussion, client scenarios and role play, and covered potential techniques and strategies for dealing with difficult client interactions.

Introduction to Financial Capability  

Trainer: Dave Hamblin

This course was practice‐based and discussed what financial capability is, what financial exclusion is and the effects it has on services users and their families. A household budget was completed and analysed. From this, income maximisation, prioritising expenditure and debts, ways of decreasing expenditure (e.g. switching exercises, spending diaries etc) were discussed. The course continued by discussing common banking difficulties and solutions, introducing Credit Unions, understanding interest rates as they apply to borrowing and saving and assessing the pros and cons of different types of borrowing. The course concluded by looking at common debt problems and welfare reform.

Writing Effective Discretionary Applications  

Trainer: Dan Bicknell

This half‐day course covered how to write effective, successful discretionary applications including Discretionary Housing Payments, Local Authority Welfare Grant applications and applications to other charities. This course was delivered through practical exercises on computers.

Recognising a Judicial Review Case 

Trainer: Adam Hundt

This half‐day course covered how to identify cases in areas of advice provision where there may be a judicial review challenge and how to go about getting it off the ground.

Topics covered included:

  • the types of decision which might be challenged
  • applying the principles of public law to different areas of advice provision;
  • how a judicial review works in practice
  • public funding: a brief overview of the availability of Legal Aid for judicial review cases
  • case studies of judicial review in different areas of advice provision
  • strategy: tips on effecting wider policy change through judicial review

Introduction to Energy

Trainer: Aisha Sterling / Sylwia Kulaczkowska

This course provided participants with an understanding of what fuel poverty is; the impact it has on service users and their households; practical ways to reduce the risk of falling into fuel debt.

  • Through a mixture of discussions and exercises the course covered: 
  • Fuel Poverty – how it is defined, who it affects and how it affects them. 
  • Causes of fuel debt 
  • Understanding energy consumption and the effect on the cost of energy bills 
  • Managing your bills
  • Help available when you are in fuel debt 
  • Support for vulnerable clients 
  • Comparing tariffs
  • Energy efficiency advice.

The course also provided information on recent changes in supplier obligations and the technologies available to help clients to manage their bills.

Right to Reside & Habitual Residence

Trainer: Rebecca Walker

There have been amendments to legislation which have made it harder for EEA nationals to satisfy the residence tests within the main benefits and tax credits. This one-day course covers these new restrictions, together with recent case law developments, and provides an overview of the main groupsthat can satisfy the residence requirements. The course is suitable for those with a working knowledge of the benefits system who advice EEA nationals.

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