Welcome to the Advice Partnership E News Bulletin

The Advice Dorset Partnership covers the geographical / historical county of Dorset, and is circulated every fortnight, to bring you news and information relating to the advice sector in Dorset and Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole. The Partnership is supported by Citizens Advice in Dorset (CAiD). 

During the Covid-19 outreach we will be publishing a weekly E News to keep you updated on information you may need for your clients/service users (benefits, rights for the self-employed, other financial help), support services, and anything else we hope may be of use…….

As usual feel free to forward this email to  colleagues and  they can get in touch with us if they wish to go on the list.  If you would like to send anything out via the bulletin,  and for all other enquiries about the Advice Dorset Partnership contact Caroline Buxton:  mailto:contact@caidorset.org.uk NB: This is a new email address, so please update your contacts list, AND let me know if you seem to have fallen off the distribution list!

Covid-19

We are all still getting our heads round the current situation, and also the raft of announcements and policy developments, so this is just an attempt to highlight some of the issues as at Thursday 26 March. Both our local authorities are co-ordinating community responses, and many of you are already involved:

Dorset Community Response involves a range of partners such as the Volunteer Centre, Dorset Community Action and Citizens Advice. See:https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/emergencies-severe-weather/emergencies/coronavirus/co-ordinated-community-response.aspx

The Help and Kindness website also provides links: https://www.helpandkindness.co.uk/

Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole’s ‘Together we can’ community response is here: https://www.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/News/News-Features/COVID19/Community-Response/Community-Response.aspx

Useful Information

Citizens Advice is updating information daily: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/

Local Citizens Advice services: Dorset https://citizensadvicedorset.org.uk/

BCP: https://www.citizensadvicebcp.org.uk/get-advice/

Gov.UK – Covid19 contents: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Definition of a Key Worker: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

The Government’s Job Retention Scheme: Employers can access financial support to continue paying the wages of employees who are temporarily sent home because there’s no work. These staff are called ‘furloughed’ workers. To access the scheme, employers will need to designate relevant staff as furloughed workers. The employer needs to get agreement from the worker to do this, unless it’s covered by a clause in the employment contract.

Read more on this and other employment related matters on the ACAS website: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/if-the-employer-needs-to-close-the-workplace

We know the DWP is under huge pressure at the moment. There is a summary of information on a range of benefits on their Universal Credit site: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Energy Bill Help: good summary on Money Saving Expert – https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/03/uk-coronavirus-help-and-your-rights/?utm_source=Expert+advice&utm_campaign=b2f93a6b81-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_25_09_21&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_19bd99be06-b2f93a6b81-283721053&mc_cid=b2f93a6b81&mc_eid=909e06b2ff#energy

Wessex Water information: Short term measures put in place to support customers struggling financially as a result of Covid-19:

  • We are encouraging customers to get in touch if they need support.
  • Water UK have published the Water Industry agreed measure to support customers during the current crisis
  • We still have our full range of schemes to help customers struggling to pay their bills.
  • We continue to tailor our support to the need of the customer; this may mean offering flexible payments or payment deferrals for anyone who needs it.
  • We continue to signpost our customers in extreme financial difficulty to independent debt advice. (our website has a message to say – ‘During the current Coronavirus outbreak you may find that face to face agencies are limiting this type of interaction and offering a telephone, online or messaging service. Please see individual websites for information.’)

Measures put in place to support those at risk, over 70 and extremely vulnerable socially isolating for 12 weeks include: a message sent to 5,000 of our 15,000 Priority Services customers and encouraging anyone who is in one of these groups to sign up to Priority Services, etc. .

Information will shortly be on the Wessex Water Partnerhub: http://partnerhub.wessexwater.co.uk/Home/

Financial Conduct Authority: Guidance for mortgage providers and for lenders taking part in the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme., makes it clear that firms should:

  • Grant customers a payment holiday for an initial period of 3 months, where they may experience payment difficulties as a result of coronavirus (Covid-19) and where they have indicated they wish to receive one.
  • Ensure that there is no additional fee or charge (other than additional interest) as a result of the payment holiday.

Read more: https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/new-guidance-mortgage-providers-lenders-coronavirus?utm_source=Expert+advice&utm_campaign=b2f93a6b81-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_25_09_21&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_19bd99be06-b2f93a6b81-283721053&mc_cid=b2f93a6b81&mc_eid=909e06b2ff

For renters – Govt ban on evictions: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

LA Hardship Fund: local authorities in England will receive funding to enable them to reduce the 2020 to 2021 council tax bills of working age people receiving Local Council Tax Support. Councils will also be able to use the funding to provide further discretionary support to vulnerable people through other support arrangements such as Local Welfare Schemes. 

Press Release from Dorset Council says their allocation is £2.6m and there is an expectation that this will mainly be used to help people in receipt of working age council tax support, as additional relief. “Those who will benefit initially don’t need to do anything, we will issue revised bills for them as soon as we can”.

Govt’s Business Support: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/

STOP PRESS: Announcement of ‘self-employed income support scheme‘: grant worth up to 80% of average monthly profits. Details not yet available!

Briefings

CPAG – Supporting families during the Covid-19 pandemic: As a priority, CPAG are calling for:

  • emergency support for families with children, with a £10 increase in child benefit as the top priority plus the removal of the benefit cap and the two-child limit;
  • changes to universal credit and legacy benefits that will directly benefit families; and
  • more money to local authorities so that local welfare assistance schemes are able to provide cash support.

https://cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/policypost/CPAG%20COVID-19%20briefing.pdf

Funding News

Cabinet Office: Procurement Policy Note on changes to public procurement during the Covid-19 outbreak:

Grants for clients from benevolent and trust funds may be useful safety nets, so always ask about your clients’ employment histories. Common ones include The Licensed Trades Association, Hospitality Action, Retail Trust, Hair & Beauty Charity etc. You can search for these on the Turn2Us website:

https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Get-Support

New funds being set up: Dorset Community Foundation has initial information on the National Emergencies Trust and Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund. https://www.dorsetcommunityfoundation.org/

Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust: Grants of up to £5k to improve the life chances for some of the most disadvantaged children in England and Wales by investing in early intervention and preventative work.’ We support organisations whose work is with targeted groups of 0-3 year olds in England and Wales which will specifically improve the reach to these targeted groups and bring about improved defined outcomes for them’.

Spring programme has changed in response to Covid-19, closing date 28 April: http://sylvia-adams.org.uk/what-we-will-fund/