Welcome to the Advice Partnership E News Bulletin

The Advice Dorset Partnership covers the geographical 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 outbreak 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 on her Citizens Advice Central Doset email [from May the E News will be sent out from this address]:  mailto:caroline.buxton@centralca.org.uk

ADVICE DORSET PARTNERSHIP – STRATEGY 2020-24: The Strategy is a short document setting out our aspirations for the period 2020-24. Given the current situation the Introduction covers how the advice sector and other VCSE colleagues have worked with local authorities and others, contributing knowledge and resources to ensure an effective and speedy response to the Covid-19 crisis; we also highlight advice issues that are likely to emerge as we move into the recovery. period. It’s a short read – and we really appreciate any comments or feedback you have:

Covid-19 Information Updates

BENEFITS/TAX CREDITS

Tax Credits: A ‘temporary’ change to working hours (particularly if reduced hours means falling below one of the thresholds) used to be allowed for a 4 week period, was then extended in April to 8 weeks, and it’s now been announced this will run for as long as the Job Retention Scheme runs (possible end date 30 June). There is no requirement to report this change BUT a permanent change (eg. if someone is made redundant or gives up being self-employed) does still need to be reported.

UC or Tax credits?: When hours and pay reduce, a calculation might show that a household would be better off on UC rather than Tax Credits. However this may only be a short term gain; we do not yet know if some of the enhancements to UC amounts and Local Housing Allowance rates, or the removal of the Minimum Income Floor will continue into 2021, so a UC award may then go down below the level of a Tax Credit award. Ideally people faced with this choice need to be offered a ‘better-off calculation’ to assess their options.

UC and wages payment dates: Some employers may be finding it difficult to make payments on the usual date, but this this can then effect a UC payment. The DWP uses the date they get the ‘real time information’ from HMRC, so a late payment can fall into a new assessment period. Employers are advised to use the contractual pay date on the info that they send to HMRC. Also, if someone leaves a job it is advisable to wait until all final payments from that job are received and then start a UC claim; if these final payments arrive in the first assessment period of their UC claim they may then wait 9 weeks for their first UC payment.

Third party deductions from UC: The DWP have now confirmed that existing deductions from Universal Credit for rent arrears, council tax arrears and service charges will be paused until 10 May. This is in addition to the pause on deductions for overpayments and credit union loans already in place. Where clients have an arrangement for direct payment of their ongoing rent we understand that this will continue. Clients should be encouraged to contact their landlord or local authority to make alternative payment arrangements if they can.

EMPLOYMENT

Self-employed Income Support Scheme: From 4 May HMRC will begin contacting people who may be eligible. They have also set up an eligibility checker but we understand it only checks one of the criteria (data from the 2018/19 tax return) and not whether someone was still trading in 2019/20 so people need to be aware of this: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/self-employed-invited-to-get-ready-to-make-their-claims-for-coronavirus-covid-19-support

People who are ‘shielding’ can be furloughed. They may also be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay from Day 1.

Updated guidance (1 May 2020) on the Job Retention Scheme is here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

HOUSING

A reminder of Shelter’s Covid-19 related advice, last updated on 30 April: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/coronavirus

FINANCES

Money Saving Expert has a good summary of various financial matters including bounce-back loans, and what happens to student loan repayments when income falls: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip/

HEALTH

Rethink Mental Illness: information and a search facility for local support: https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/covid-19-support/

Royal College of Psychiatrists: information on mental health – translated into a number of different languages: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/translations

Local Information

Emergency Central Heating Offer [ECHO]: Funding under this scheme is still available. The link below to Ridgewater Energy Co also gives info on the current status of other schemes. https://www.ridgewaterenergy.co.uk/projects-and-services/echo/

Dorset Community Action has put all its Covid-related information on to one page (with links): https://www.dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk/covid-19-updates/

CAN – Community Action Network (BCP) has launched its new website and there is a page dedicated to Covid-19 info, here: https://www.can100.org/coronavirus-covid-19

Research and Reports

‘When the protection schemes end’: Citizens Advice have published a set of proposals for a cross-sector transition package which will help households recover from coronavirus. once the government’s current protection schemes come to a close. Proposal include a gradual ending of the Job Retention Scheme, further enhancements to Universal Credit and other benefits, and a hardship fund. Read more:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/policy/policy-research-topics/welfare-policy-research-surveys-and-consultation-responses/welfare-policy-research/when-the-protection-schemes-end-a-transition-package-to-help-households-recover-from-the-coronavirus-shock/

‘Near the cliff edge: how to protect households facing debt during Covid19’: Another Citizens Advice report suggests a number of proposals such as: scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, pausing enforcement of Council Tax arrears, and the suggestion that Ofcom should instruct suppliers not to disconnect for arrears built up during the crisis. Read more:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/policy/policy-research-topics/debt-and-money-policy-research/near-the-cliff-edge-how-to-protect-households-facing-debt-during-covid-19/

CPAG: ‘Supporting children though the pandemic: why we need a Coronavirus emergency income support fund’: Recommendations include increasing Child Benefit and removing the Benefit Cap and the 2 child limit. Read more: https://cpag.org.uk/news-blogs/news-listings/supporting-children-through-pandemic-why-we-need-coronavirus-emergency

Funding News

Charity Excellence Framework: register to access (free) the Covid19 database and toolkit: https://www.charityexcellence.co.uk/

Albert Hunt Trust: Grants can support homelessness work and projects supporting health and wellbeing – under this heading projects funded have included physical and learning disability, physical and mental health, social challenge and deprivation. Can cover core costs and project costs. Read more: https://www.alberthunttrust.org.uk/philosophy/