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). 

The Advice Dorset Partnership E news is published fortnightly on a Thursday, BUT if there is something urgent in-between we will send out a short supplementary edition.

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 Dorset email:  mailto:caroline.buxton@centralca.org.uk

You can view previous editions of the E news HERE.

Jobs

Citizens Advice East Dorset & Purbeck – 4 vacancies. Citizens Advice East Dorset & Purbeck is an innovative and successful advice service which offers confidential advice online, over the phone and in person, for free.

Governance and HR Officer: This role will support the Chief Officer to maintain the effective governance of the Trustee Board, and requires a candidate with excellent communication skills and the ability to deal confidently and sensitively with a wide range of people including trustees, colleagues and third parties. Salary pro rata of £23,080, 15 hrs/week, permanent post, working in Wimborne or Wareham or home-based. Closing date 17 August. Read more:

Administrator / Advice support worker: This post is to provide comprehensive administrative and client support services. You will work alongside our Housing and Money Advice Teams as well as our Generalist/Energy Team. Salary £23,541 – £24,021 (depending on experience), 37 hrs/week, fixed term until 31 March 2022 (extension possible). Closing date 26 August. Read more:

Financial Capability Adviser: This post provides specialist caseworker support for multi disadvantaged people who are homeless or vulnerably housed, under the Moving On project. Salary £24,982 – £25,481 pa pro rata (dependent on experience ) 21 hrs/week. Fixed Term: 21 hours currently and until 31st March 2022 then 14 hours until 31st December 2023. (2 x contracts; expected to be extended so hours may remain). Closing date 26 August. Read more:

Housing Specialist Caseworker: This post provides specialist caseworker support for multi disadvantaged people who are homeless or vulnerably housed, under the Moving On project. Salary £25,481 – £25,991 pa pro rata (dependent on experience). Fixed Term: 21 hours currently and until 31st March 2022 then 14 hours until 31st December 2023. (2 x contracts; expected to be extended so hours may remain). Closing date 26 August. Read more:

Citizens Advice Central Dorset: Caseworker(s) for the Rough Sleepers Initiative (RSI). We are looking for experienced Welfare Benefits and Debt Caseworkers who can provide a flexible approach to the needs of our clients and are able to deliver comprehensive advice through various channels including face to face. There are two positions available, although they could be combined, one in the Weymouth and Portland area (0.6fte) and one to cover the Dorset Council Area (0.4fte)

Weymouth and Portland – Caseworker: 22 Hours per week (0.6fte); Salary: £12.95 actual per annum (£14,815 Actual / £24,916 FTE); Location: Weymouth and Portland.

Dorset Council Area – Flexible Support Adviser: 15 Hours per week (0.4fte); Salary: £12.95 actual per annum (£10,101 Actual / £24,916 FTE); Location: Dorset Council Area.

Closing date 19 August. For more information contact CACD

Sexual Trauma and Recovery Service [STARS]: Children & Young Persons Independent Sexual Violence Advisor – (part-time) for 3 days a week based at our Dorchester office. Salary £21,000 – £23,000 (FTE) dependent on experience. More details on the STARS website.

Information updates

COVID RELATED ISSUES

The AUGUST fact sheet is here:

Self isolation: There have been various – and sometimes conflicting – government announcements recently regarding self-isolation rules; the different rules obviously affect employee obligations and corresponding rights to pay. There is a difference between notification by NHS Test and Trace and being pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app:

  • NHS Test and Trace notifications carry a legally binding obligation to isolate for 10 days. A worker eligible for SSP is entitled to it from day 1 and small employers can reclaim the SSP from the government. A worker might also be eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment from their local council. They might also be able to furlough for the period they need to self-isolate. If they are self-employed they may also be entitled to SEISS. You can read more about getting benefits if you’re self-isolating.
  • ‘Pings’ advise the employee to self-isolate for 10 days (even with a negative test) and get a test, but there is  no legal requirement to self-isolate and no clear equivalent SSP entitlements (though, of course, the employer can choose to pay sick pay).  There is also no obligation on the employee to tell their employer.  

From 16 August, people who have had 2 vaccinations won’t need to self-isolate if they have no symptoms but have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive. This rule has been brought forward to 19 July for frontline NHS staff and care workers to alleviate pressure on the NHS.

Information is on the NHS website here.

BENEFITS

Severe Disability Premium and Universal Credit case [SDP/UC]: The DWP has conceded a judicial review of a recent case: The claimants were a couple who jointly claimed UC in 2019. The ‘SDP gateway’ was still in force, preventing certain legacy benefit claimants who were recently entitled to the SDP from being able to claim UC (this gateway was revoked in January 2021). The couple were not receiving the SDP when they claimed UC but it was later reinstated to cover the date of the claim. This meant that legally they were entitled to the SDP when UC was claimed, even though they were not receiving it.

The couple were substantially worse off on UC. Their judicial review challenge argued that they should either be returned to legacy benefits or fully compensated for their loss. It is confirmed that the DWP will fully compensate the couple.  This case may be important for any clients who have lost out on transferring to UC between January 2019 and January 2021 (the period the SDP Gateway was in force) and who were entitled to the SDP when they claimed UC – even if that entitlement was only decided later. More detail is on the GCN Chambers website here.

Universal Credit – Minimum Income Floor: The MIF is assumed income for self-employed claimants, and has been suspended during the pandemic. The regulations were updated as from 1 August, so that the MIF will be reintroduced though the DWP has some discretion. In practice, this means that clients who were subject to the MIF before the pandemic will become subject to it again, but only once the DWP carries out a new determination to check they’re still in gainful self-employment (GSE). A good overview of the MIF is on the revenuebenefits website..

HOUSING

Tenancies – notice: Changes to notice periods for ‘non serious rent arrears’ from 1 August 2021 – notice periods for possession claims based on ‘non-serious’ rent arrears in most types of tenancy are reduced from 4 months to 2 months.

DEBT

Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and Debt Relief Orders (DROs): Now that the DRO criteria have changed, the Insolvency Service has written to Insolvency Practitioners to say that ‘those who supervise IVAs should consider the impact of the changes to the DRO criteria on their portfolio and if necessary, put in place a policy to review cases in order that they approach cases consistently…….After consideration, if an IVA is no longer the best option for that consumer, they should be directed to appropriate advice and supported by their supervisor through any transition.’ This could mean more people approaching other debt providers for DROs. To remind yourself of the revised criteria for DROs go to Citizens Advice.

OTHER

EU Citizens Rights post transition: The Public Law project have produced a short but useful summary here. Also, see below for a Law Centres Network report on vulnerability and the EU settlement scheme.

Travel / holidays: Now it is the summer hols many people may be planning a holiday abroad. There is Govt info on refunds and cancellations for package holidays here and also see Citizens Advice.

LOCAL INFORMATION

Dorset Homechoice is updating the housing register. Those currently on the register have to re-register by 1 October 2021, here, and they can continue to bid on properties. New applicants wishing to apply for social housing can apply online to go onto Homechoice by completing the application form, in full, at www.dorsetcouncilhomechoice.org.uk after 1 October 2021.  Their application will then be assessed for qualification.

Bus services in Dorset: Dorset Council is currently gathering information in preparation for its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) submission to the Department for Transport later this year. WSP are assisting with this and are now seeking feedback to help identify the main priorities in reviewing and redefining local bus provision across the Dorset Council area. There is a standard feedback form below that can be completed in as much detail as possible, either on your own behalf or that of the organisation or group of people that you represent, and can also be distributed to others. Forms should be returned to mailto:BusBackBetter@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk by Sunday 15th August. Alternatively, you can print and then post your form, to: Transport Planning, Dorset County Council, County Hall, Colliton Park, Dorchester, DT1 1XJ.

Reports, research, blogs etc

Gambling updates: Our thanks to Lizzie Kingsbury at Central Dorset Citizens Advice for keeping us posted on these issues.

  • Gambling Vulnerability and FCA Compliance – How financial services firms can achieve the best outcomes for vulnerable customers who gamble read the guidance here.
  • Best Practice Guide from the Money & Mental Health Policy Institute – a guide for banks and building societies for people experiencing gambling harm/disorder, here.
  • House of Commons – Briefing Paper on Loot boxes in video games (here – Aug 2021) with a summary of what they are, how the law may be changed/reformed to protect children and vulnerable people from the gamblification of video games.
  • Advertisements for bingo products will be treated the same as betting products, so will be subject to the ‘Gambling’ section of the Advertisement Codes. The Codes state that ads must be socially responsible, and should not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.

Centre for Social Justice: Taking control for good – introduction of the Enforcement Conduct Authority: The enforcement and debt advice sectors have come together, under the leadership of the Centre for Social Justice, to collaboratively develop the Enforcement Conduct Authority (ECA). This proposes a new independent body, which would replace bailiff self-regulation, and have ‘a clear mandate to ensure fair treatment and appropriate protection for people subject to enforcement’ . Access the report here.

Ministry of Justice advice sector survey: The survey is for advisors, lawyers and caseworkers in the advice sector in England and Wales.
The MoJ says it wants to improve their understanding of:

  • the needs and characteristics of people seeking legal support
  • how organisations currently provide advice

The findings will inform their work to improve access to early legal support. Here is the survey

Future of Legal Aid – House of Commons Justice Committee report: This finds that Legal Aid  is in urgent need of reform to protect fairness and to ensure that the most vulnerable can have access to justice. Amongst the recommendations for family or civil cases it found:

  • non-means tested advice at court similar to the possession duty scheme should be used in other areas of civil justice
  • the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme was welcomed but early legal advice alongside this would make mediation more successful
  • an updated version of the old ‘green form’ scheme to provide early legal advice is needed
  • the rise in numbers of litigants in person was noted and better Ministry of Justice data was needed on the impact of legal advice on access to justice

Read the press release here.

Nuffield Family Justice Observatory report – Remote hearings in the family court post-pandemic: This report is based on a survey of professionals, parents and family members; the majority of professionals felt there was a continuing role for certain types of remote hearing, but 73% of parents in remote hearings did not feel supported and added to this 46% of parents did not have legal representation. Access the report here.

How many PIP Claims are waiting to be determined? Question to the DWP Minister, Justin Tomlinson: His written answer is: At 30th April 2021 (the latest available data) 59,000 initial claims for Personal Independence Payment registered in 2020 were awaiting clearance. This includes both new claims to PIP and reassessments from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP and is 10% of the 614,000 initial claims for PIP registered in 2020.

Shaping future support: the health and disability green paper. This was published by the Govt here on 20 July. According to ‘Benefits and Work’ the document contains surprisingly few concrete proposals and comes close to admitting PIP was rushed and badly designed. It does, however, suggest creating a Severe Disability Group who would “never need to complete a detailed application form or go through an assessment”. Amongst other things the paper does rule out a single assessment for PIP and WCA.

Govt – National Disability Strategy: This sets out a wide-ranging set of practical actions to improve the everyday lives of disabled people. Its focus ranges across public services, housing, transport, education, leisure, shopping, employment, and rights and perceptions. read more here.

Law Centres Network report – ‘Vulnerability in the EU Settlement Scheme: Looking Back, Going Forward’. This new report analyses original, previously unpublished data and raises concerns about “the melting pot of potential legal problems” that EU citizens will face now that the Scheme has officially closed for applications. read more here.

Policy in Practice – July Newsletter: Contains various articles and reports, such as a survey showing that local authority council tax caseloads increased by 13%, and recent research on the impact of the UC £20 uplift: There are two counteracting forces. Some households moved out of poverty because of the £20 Universal Credit uplift. So for those who were on benefits and close to the poverty line, the uplift pushed them above it. At the same time, many more households lost income and started claiming benefits for the first time. The second effect was larger, which means that overall, poverty rates have increased. To read more, follow this link.

Insolvency Service – Breathing Space Bulletin:

Funding News

Dorset Community Foundation:

BCP Living Legacy Fund is open to organisations working in the BCP Council area. The aim is to fund services and activities that bring people together to support one another, provide healthy social activities, support personal aspirations and skills and promote volunteering opportunities where possible. Grants can be up to £5,000 and the fund will prioritise applications supporting the recovery and strengthening of local communities following the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on isolation & loneliness, poverty, health & wellbeing. Deadline 10 September. Read more here.

NB: The NHS Charities Together – COVID-19 Community Partnership Grants – will open on 6 September 2021 and applications will also be made via the Foundation. Read more here.

The National Lottery: Second round of the Local Connections Fund, a £4 million investment designed to help small charities and community groups working to reduce loneliness by building community connections across England. TNL is investing £2 million into this second round of funding which will be used to fund hundreds of ‘microgrants’ between £300 and £2,500, so small, local organisations (with an annual income of £50,000 or less) can bring people and communities together. Closing date 20 August. Read more here.