CPAG's experience in the welfare rights field is unrivalled and this is reflected in the quality of our trainers. All are working within the sector, some for CPAG and others as senior advisers and consultants. Many of them contribute regularly to leading publications and information resources for the sector, including our own highly regarded range of handbooks.


Barbara Alexander is an experienced money advice and welfare benefits adviser and trainer. She currently works at the Money Advice Unit at Hertfordshire County Council, and as a freelance trainer.

Jane Ballantyne is a qualified solicitor and experienced freelance trainer. She has contributed to a number of publications, including the Welfare Benefits Resource Pack and the Rights Guide for Homeowners.

Sarah Batty has 18 years’ experience in the Welfare Rights field covering advice, training, tribunal representation and policy. Sarah has worked in local authorities and third sector advice providers, and currently works in Social Housing in the North East.

Ellie Bergin has worked as a welfare rights worker since 1991 and currently works for Islington Council. She has worked in the past as a trainer and as an appeals representative for Lasa, and prior to that she worked at Disability Alliance and Merseyside Welfare Rights.

Jeff Brown has over 25 years’ experience in the field of money advice, having worked for a Citizens Advice Bureau, National Debtline, a bank and a mortgage lender. Jeff is now a successful freelance trainer and consultant in debt advice/benefits advice to the not-for-profit sector and credit industry. He is a regular trainer for the Council of Mortgage Lenders and has delivered in-house training to over a dozen mortgage lenders. Jeff is also an approved tutor for the Money Advice Trust and the Institute of Money Advisers at both caseworker and specialist levels.

Michelle Büyükertas is an experienced welfare rights adviser and trainer. She currently works in the Money Advice Unit at Hertfordshire County Council, having spent a number of years previously working for the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Catherine Connors has worked as a local authority welfare rights officer for 16 years. Catherine has considerable experience of delivering welfare rights training to a variety of audiences, including social work students, primary care trust staff, housing providers, Women’s Aid and CAB advisers. Catherine has also designed and delivered a range of training materials for a financial capability project.

Tahnyet Faroqui is an advice worker at Camden CAB and has 20 years’ experience in welfare benefits advice work and representation at social security appeal tribunals and employment tribunals. She has also provided training in welfare benefits, including tax credits and skills based courses, for the Citizens Advice Bureau and other voluntary organisations.

Edward Graham is CPAG’s Advice and Rights Manager. He has 15 years’ experience in benefits advice and training, and provides training, advice and casework support as part of CPAG’s specialist support service.

Jude Giddings works as a welfare rights officer with Citizens Advice. She has specialised in welfare rights since 1995 and has extensive advice, caseworker and tribunal representation experience. Her freelance welfare rights training has included work for Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Bureau, Somerset Welfare Rights Unit and Disability Alliance.

Carlos Hagi has over 30 years’ experience as a benefits caseworker and has worked for a Law Centre for the last 13 years. He has practical experience of complex casework and appeal representation which he brings to his training. Carlos has been a professional trainer since 2005 for various organisations and was a peer reviewer for the Legal Services Commission in welfare benefits law.

Daphne Hall is an experienced welfare rights adviser currently working for Bristol City Council. She is also a contributor to Disability Alliance's Disability Rights Handbook and to CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

Steve Johnson has been a welfare benefits trainer for many years and has over 30 years’ experience working as a professional adviser and manager within the CAB service. His current clients include CPAG, CAB outlets, Youth Access, DIAL, several Housing Associations, Local Authorities and solicitors practices.

Alison Markantonis is a highly experienced welfare benefits and financial inclusion practitioner, who has worked very successfully in the benefits and affordable housing sector since 1983. Now an independent training consultant specialising in training frontline staff and tenants, Alison has worked with many large housing and support organisations and is currently also a part-time money advice worker, helping tenants prepare their budgeting skills for Universal Credit.

Tom Messere is a freelance trainer and writer - author of the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health and regular "Welfare Writes" columnist in Mental Health Today. He came into welfare rights just as the 1988 great reforms introduced Income Support as the way to simplify and reform the system; he has been training and demistifying the benefits system ever since. He has worked in both the voluntary (CAB, housing associations, cancer charities) and statutory (welfare rights/social inclusion units) sectors.

Essie Rashidschi has 20 years’ experience as an advice worker, particularly in the field of welfare benefits and social security law. He currently works as a freelance welfare rights tutor, having previously worked for Lasa as part of their appeals team.

Louise Shepherd is a freelance training consultant who formerly worked as a welfare rights trainer for the London Borough of Lewisham, and as a training manager for a large London based housing association. Today, Louise works exclusively in the public sector and her recent clients include the National Trust, NSPCC, Imperial College and many local authorities and housing associations.

Aida Shoush is an experienced welfare rights adviser and trainer. She is currently working as an adviser at St Christopher’s Hospice in South London as part of a team providing advice services to patients and their families, as well as to those who are newly bereaved. Aida has been an adviser in both the CAB service and other parts of the independent advice sector, and has worked in the past with Lasa and with a local authority welfare rights service.

Jo Silcox has over 25 years’ experience in welfare rights. She currently works at Harrow Law Centre and for the Money Advice unit of Hertfordshire County Council. Jo has many years’ experience of complex case work, representation at tribunals and training. In addition, she is a freelance trainer in welfare benefits and she was the Social Security Caseworker at FRU for 7 years.

David Simmons is a welfare rights worker at CPAG. He has more than 20 years’ experience of providing welfare rights advice and training and has written extensively for CPAG and other publications.

Mike Spencer is a solicitor and is the Legal Officer for the Child Poverty Action Group. He represents CPAG and its clients in test cases on social security and related issues aimed at promoting the rights and incomes of families with children. Prior to joining CPAG, Mike was a solicitor for the Asylum Support Appeals Project, where he represented homeless and destitute asylum seekers.

David Stickland is a freelance welfare rights trainer and welfare rights officer for the London Borough of Greenwich. He delivers training for various voluntary organisations and acts as a consultant/trainer for several large housing associations and disability organisations.

Paul Treloar is a freelance welfare rights trainer and policy consultant on welfare reforms. He has more than 20 years’ experience of providing welfare rights advice and information, appeals representation and policy making, with a number of organisations including CPAG, Disability Alliance, Gingerbread and Lasa.

Gary Vaux is Head of Advice (Benefits & Work) at Hertfordshire County Council and is an experienced welfare benefits adviser, writer and trainer. Gary also writes a benefits column for Community Care magazine.

Rebecca Walker is a welfare rights caseworker at Pitsmoor CAB in Sheffield and a freelance trainer and writer. She has worked in welfare rights since 1993 and contributes to CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook and to the Disability Rights Handbook.

Martin Williams is a welfare rights worker at CPAG. He is widely experienced in representing claimants at both levels within the tribunal system, having worked in the appeals team at Lasa from 2001 until 2008. Martin has also worked as a local authority welfare rights officer and in an independent advice centre. He is currently an author of CPAG’s Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit: the legislation.