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 are 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

Covid-19 Information Updates

FROM 4 JULY – What you can and cannot do. Read more here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do-after-4-july

JOBCENTRES TO REOPEN / CONDITIONALITY TO RESTART: Last week the work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, indicated benefit sanctions will be reintroduced as jobcentres in England start to reopen after lockdown, saying it is important claimant rules are reinstated.

Conditionality requirements: on Govt information it now no longer says ‘You will not get a sanction if you cannot keep to your Claimant Commitment because of coronavirus (COVID-19)’ . For example, on new style JSA it now says: ‘You’ll also need to take reasonable steps to look for work. You must still follow the guidance on working safely during coronavirus.https://www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance/eligibility?step-by-step-nav=e7b3ea75-05d5-4341-b27a-be3b767b1e3f

HMRC Fraud: Part of an employer’s furlough grant claim (“FGC”) is a requirement to pay all of it over to the worker. HMRC will treat the deliberate failure to distribute a FGC as fraud,  and an employee in this situation can this on line – follow the link: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/report-fraud-to-hmrc

HOMELESSNESS SUPPORT: Letter from Luke Hall at MHCLG , 30 June, to update Local Authorities on further/continued support for those placed in emergency accommodation, including a 12 week extension to the support provided to EEA Nationals.

NB: it should be noted that the ‘Everyone in’ initiative is not part of the local authority’s statutory homelessness provision and just because a client has been provided with accommodation it does not mean that the LA has instigated a homeless application.

Read the letter from Luke Hall MP here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/896650/24-6-20_-_Letter_to_All_LAs_with_annexes.pdf

TAX CREDIT RENEWALS: Although HMRC automatically reviewed most tax credit awards, about a million packs have been sent out; these need to be completed by 31 July 2020.People need to:

  • review the household income for the 2019-2020 tax year and notify of any changes
  • for self-employed clients that have not submitted a 2019/20 tax return, report an estimated profit or loss online or via HMRC’s webchat service by 31 July 2020
  • otherwise, awards will be finalised based on incorrect information and clients will be unable to change this after 31 July 2020

Renewals can be done on line or by post – more details: https://www.gov.uk/renewing-your-tax-credits-claim#:~:text=You%20must%20renew%20your%20tax,received%20since%206%20April%202020.

‘SURPLUS EARNINGS’: Many self-employed people will receive a grant through the new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) this month. These payments can be up to £7,500 and will be counted as earnings under Universal Credit. As a result, lots of self-employed households will be affected by the complex ‘surplus earnings’ rules for the first time. In short, these rules mean that for many households, the SEISS money will be taken into account as earnings not just for the month it was received, but for future months as well. For a simple guide and worked examples go to the Policy in Practice website here: http://policyinpractice.co.uk/webinar-how-to-simplify-the-complexity-of-surplus-earnings/

GANGMASTERS AND LABOUR ABUSE AUTHORITY: Between 22 June and 10 July the GLAA will examine the impacts of COVID-19 and the resulting change to the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking picture – in essence it is aimed at identifying vulnerable, trafficked or exploited workers that have disappeared off enforcement radars during the lockdown of the economy. The GLAA has concerns that the extent of exploitation has increased significantly as a result of Covid-19.Advisers or clients may contact the GLAA direct on 0800 432 0804 or www.gla.gov.uk to provide intelligence or report relevant labour abuse concerns.

The GLAA also have useful resources on their website such as information on workers’ rights in a range of languages: https://www.gla.gov.uk/i-am-a/i-am-a-worker/worker-information-1/

HOLIDAY SCAMS: Take Five write: The current travel restrictions imposed due to coronavirus has left thousands of customers sorting out refunds; with travel firms, airlines, and holiday accommodation. This has led to increases in the purchases of caravans and motorhomes as people opt for staycations. Criminals are using this as an opportunity to trick people into handing over their money or information. Read more on how to avoid possible scams here: https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/advice/general-advice/holiday-scams/

FREE SCHOOL MEALS SCAM: We have been informed that some parents have received an email stating the following: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported.’ This is a SCAM! People should delete this message immediately.

Local Updates

Update on the ECHO boiler replacement scheme: Both AgilityEco and ECHO funders were determined to ensure the continuity of the scheme beyond the usual closure date of March/April given the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a response to the fact that self-isolation increased the need for heating and hot water for comfort and hygiene. Since the country first went into lockdown ECHO has arranged for and funded 430 boiler repairs and replacements to be carried out for vulnerable clients with no central heating or hot water.

Unfortunately, ECHO will now have to temporarily close to new referrals to ensure that sufficient funding is retained to meet the schemes core objective of providing emergency support to fuel poor households in a no heat situation throughout the winter heating season. It is hoped that ECHO will be able to reopen to referrals from September onwards and that this step will allow for the provision of support throughout the winter. All clients referred to ECHO to date will not be impacted and will receive the same level of service as would otherwise be expected.

Ridgewater Energy will have ‘ECO’ utility company boiler funding in place sometime in August, but are not yet sure whether this will have to be as a dual measure (done with cavity wall or loft insulation) only at this point. More details to follow.

Help for your organisation / events

Ward Goodman ‘Charities Special’ webinar: Friday 3 July 10am, via zoom. More info: https://www.wardgoodman.co.uk/hub/

Dorset Community Action: Covid-19 updates, webinars, and link to headlines from the recent State of the Sector report: https://www.dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk/covid-19-updates/

CAN (BCP) Training News:

Directory of Social Change checklists: In the current crisis, some challenges are practical, like how to meet and manage staff remotely. Others are financial like how to balance falling income with increasing demand. Many are about how and how well we communicate with our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. To help you to make sure you’re getting the basics right, the DSC have created a series of simple Coping with the Crisis checklists – follow this link: https://www.dsc.org.uk/crisischecklists/

Reports, briefings etc

The job market has changed – our benefits system needs to reflect this: This Citizens Advice blog looks at the changes due to Covid19, and suggests that the Government ‘will need to give careful thought to how to best support people on benefits to take up work or increase their hours in these challenging circumstances. The role of work coaches and the approach to benefit conditionality will be crucial to this’. Although Jobseeking requirements have been paused until 29 June, CA is calling on the Government to:

  • Extend the suspension of conditionality in line with public health guidance, in particular for groups who risk facing particular barriers to work as a result of coronavirus.
  • Ensure claimant commitments are reflective of a claimant’s individual circumstances and the local labour market

Nowhere to Turn: The coronavirus pandemic has had an especially severe effect on migrants in the UK. Tens of thousands of migrants – as well as their British family members – face destitution, difficult choices about returning to work, huge future costs relating to their immigration status, and the prospect of loved ones being forced to leave the UK. Cit Advice is calling for the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) restriction for those subject to immigration control to be temporarily suspended. Read more: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/policy/policy-research-topics/welfare-policy-research-surveys-and-consultation-responses/welfare-policy-research/nowhere-to-turn-how-immigration-rules-are-preventing-people-from-getting-support-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

Freedom of Information request: is pressure put on claimants to accept a lower PIP award and avoid having to go to appeal? Read the reply to this FoI request here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/660850/response/1571822/attach/3/FOI2020%2020968%20Reply.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

Funding News

Aviva Community Fund: The COVID-19 outbreak is a challenging time for many. We know that now, more than ever, small charities need our support. That is why we have broadened the criteria of the Aviva Community Fund to include applications for projects that enable causes to adapt or continue their vital services by covering core running costs, so they can help their beneficiaries and communities during this time of need. Applications are now open for the next round of the Aviva Community Fund until 28th July.

Read more:https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/start-crowdfunding#criteria