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). As we have got to April, this edition is Number 1 of the new financial year!
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:email@example.com 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 Information Updates
Information on a range of issues affected by the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/
Benefits: some of the key changes:
- UC and Tax Credits increase of £20/week from 6 April (though UC claimants won’t notice this until May/June….)
- All UC work search and availability requirements suspended for 3 months.
- ID verification is now done by phone.
- Disability and sickness benefits face-to-face assessments suspended for 3 months.
- Waiting days for ESA and SSP have been suspended.
- On-line Isolation Notes can be downloaded here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/online-isolation-notes-launched-providing-proof-of-coronavirus-absence-from-work
- Local Housing Allowance rates have been increased: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-lha-rates-applicable-from-april-2020-to-march-2021
- Guidance for employees, including Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees#furloughed-workers
- Self-employment income support scheme (SEISS): HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June. Read more: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme/
DWP freeze on repayment of benefit debt – The DWP are suspending repayments of all overpayments and social fund loans. Deductions from benefits, direct debits and direct earnings deductions will stop automatically. If clients make repayments through a bank standing order or other voluntary method they need to cancel these. It’s nit yet clear if this will apply to 3rd party deductions and it appears that deductions of UC Advances from UC will continue.
The Government is putting benefit and related information onto its Understanding Universal Credit website: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/ and it recently published a Briefing: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/insights/coronavirus-claiming-welfare-benefits/?utm_source=HOC+Library+-+Research+alerts&utm_campaign=6a051bd9d2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_01_08_00&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a9da1c9b17-6a051bd9d2-102526909&mc_cid=6a051bd9d2&mc_eid=af775a51e6
More detail and other links can be found on The Benefits Training Co‘s news pages https://www.benefitstraining.co.uk/news and RightsNet open access page: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/miscellaneous-changes-to-social-security-in-response-to-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
Housing Advice: Good summary from Shelter, last updated 30/3/20: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/coronavirus
Mental health and wellbeing: Guidance from Mind – practical tips, ideas for how to spend your time at home and other links: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/#TakingCareOfYourMentalHealthAndWellbeing
Information in other formats including easy-read and BSL:
British Deaf Association info in BSL: https://bda.org.uk/coronavirus/
Coronavirus information in 35 languages: Doctors of the World is a humanitarian organisation, empowering excluded people to access healthcare. https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/
Dorset Council have summarised their community response into a Briefing, though of course there may be further updates:
Dorset Council has also just published information on business support grant funding:
Dorset Digital Hotline: 01305 221000, Monday – Friday 10 – 12: Digital Champions will be available to help with IT questions.
BCP’s ‘Together We Can’ response has a dedicatd website https://www.can100.org/ and a phone line 0300 123 7052 (8am – 8pm, 7 days a week).
Dorset Community Action: Helpline to answer questions you may have regarding Coronavirus and your Organisation – 01202 847609 – Open between 11am and 4pm. Also there will be webinars on various topics. Read more: https://www.dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk/
EUSS – Home Office information: While applications continue to be processed, during this challenging time they will take longer than usual. In addition, in line with the latest Public Health England advice some of our support services and application routes have temporarily changed. Please find an outline of these changes below. This situation is being kept under constant review and we will continue to keep you updated.
Settlement Resolution Centre (SRC); The SRC will no longer be answering telephone calls. It will, however, continue to respond to email enquiries https://eu-settled-status-enquiries.service.gov.uk/start and provide a call back function when required. Emails from support organisations will be prioritised where possible.
ID document scanner locations: The ID document scanner locations are following all the latest Public Health England advice to protect staff and the decision has been made, to suspend them at this time.
Postal route for submitting Identity evidence: The postal route for submitting identity evidence is currently suspended. We are unable to accept any documents by post at this time, but all documents already sent to us will be returned as quickly as possible. Applications can still be made online using the “EU Exit ID Document check app”.
Further information; There are still 15 months before the deadline of 30 June 2021 for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme, and there is plenty of support available online to support those looking to apply.
EUSS Local Help is still available from Citizens Advice BCP: who have sent this information: We have taken the decision to immediately close all of our face to face outreaches for the EUSS project, and will be offering phone and digital advice guiding applicants through the process over the phone where possible. Please ask any client to contact us via these channels:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 07761 092704
Public Law Project: continues to be available to support individuals and frontline organisations access justice, and will be putting resources online, as well as scrutinising emergency legislation. https://publiclawproject.org.uk/latest/plp-coronavirus-update-lets-stay-in-touch/
Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund: Dorset Community Foundation support for local community groups will initially prioritise organisations supporting those most vulnerable to Coronavirus (the over 70s and those with underlying health conditions) and food delivery services where at least 50% of beneficiaries fall within the above category.
Applications assessed on a rolling basis, and they are aiming for a two week turnaround. More information, and to apply: https://www.dorsetcommunityfoundation.org/dorset-coronavirus-community-fund/