Benefits of membership

Here we set out the benefits members receive when they join ACFA: The advice network. We believe these will support local advice services to be more effective and efficient.

They have been developed over time by members, for members and with the aim of encouraging a partnership approach so that

Together we are Stronger

Information sharing

ACFA members benefit from a long established tradition of encouraging open sharing of information. This might include the interpretation of specific areas of law, funding or social policy issues.

Strong history of the ACFA brand

ACFA was established in the early 1980s and has worked to significantly raise the profile of the advice sector. Examples include:

  • ACFA led a successful consortium legal aid bid and made a joint stand against its abolition. Our open, sharing and partnership approach is the envy of many advice agencies in other areas.
  • Showcasing social policy issues in the media such as the Sunday Politics Show and Points West and establishing a regular column in the Bristol Post.
  • ACFA led a successful partnership bid for Advice Services Transition Fund which led to more joined up services and reporting on our impact.
  • Jointly hosted a Welfare Reform Conference to gain a better cross sector understanding of the impact of welfare reform on Bristol citizens.

Joint working and collaboration

Encouraging a partnership approach is an important principle for ACFA, enabling an open and sharing relationship between members. Collaborative working can range from informal group work through to joint delivery of projects. The ACFA network can provide the opportunity for the development of such collaborations.

ACFA meetings

A useful monthly forum for information exchange and to discuss issues relevant for advisers and managers alike. There is also an opportunity for speakers, external or internal, to address members.

Voice and influence

As a long-established umbrella organisation, ACFA has become an influential body in trying to improve the provision and quality of advice services. ACFA lobbies for adequately funded and resourced advice services and defends members when threatened with funding cuts. ACFA is a collective voice for advice agencies which can raise issues or complaints on behalf of members and represents them on Bristol City Council’s Joint Planning Board and Bristol Homes Board.

ACFA training

Good quality and relevant training provided at an affordable price and delivered locally.

Resource library

Members have exclusive access to a range of regularly updated policies and procedures that aim to facilitate the development of best practice and help member agencies become quality mark compliant. Resources available include casework and employment related policies, as well as organisational policies such as data protection or business continuity.

Social policy

An opportunity to raise and identify key social policy issues affecting our clients and service users. The social policy sub group can co-ordinate a joint response. There are many transferable skills within ACFA members that can provide a united front against the policies of austerity.

Peer support

An opportunity for members to give and receive trusted mutual support whether this be operational, organisational, managerial or legal issue based. Having someone to call or meet to discuss common problems and issues saves time, avoids duplication and reduces stress.

ACFA sub-groups

An open invitation to attend a number of sub groups where you can work with other members on specific issues: achieving

  • Communications: An informal forum to discuss marketing strategies and opportunity to increase your visibility by contributing to our regular Advice Squad column in the Bristol Post.
  • Fundraising: The sub group establishes a strategic approach to fundraising, avoiding duplication, discouraging competition and identifying opportunities for partnership.
  • Social policy: The sub group provides an opportunity for all members to contribute to larger debates and campaigns, which, as individual organisations, they might not have the time or resources to do so.

News

Focused and relevant news delivered through regular emails to all members and through ACFA meetings and sub groups.

ACFA web site

A central place where details of all ACFA member services can be found as well as member only resources such as our unique resource library.

Marketing

An opportunity to increase awareness and publicity for your own services, both to other members and externally. This is achieved through attending ACFA meetings, disseminating information through ACFA emails or through the ACFA website.

Casework Support

ACFA can help advisers to work more effectively with their clients. We can do this by:

  • Joint casework: Bringing together advice skills and experience from different agencies helps to bring about a more effective case outcomes for the client.
  • Consultancy: Caseworkers can access specialist skills and knowledge in different fields of law.
  • Signposting and referral: Shared understanding of services provided by members enables advisers to make more effective signposts and referrals for their clients.

New developments

ACFA members are always working on new initiatives and opportunities. Future developments include an impact assessment protocol and online referral system.

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