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…….). *Due to annual leave the next edition [No 16] will come out on Thursday 23 July.

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: The following clarifications are from Mims Davies on 1 July:

‘From July, people will be able to make an appointment with their Work Coach if they can’t get the help they want online or over the phone. Work Coaches, as part of the individualised approach, will be calling all claimants to engage with them.

From 1 July, we will reintroduce the requirement for claimants of UC, NS and Legacy JSA to accept a claimant commitment as part of any new claim. For existing claimants, we will review and update their claimant commitment as capacity allows.’

And this is from the DWP’s ‘Touchbase‘ newsletter, 3 July:

We are working with local managers to start expanding our service offer in jobcentres to help get Britain back into work. Work Coaches are calling claimants – no one needs to contact us. We don’t want to sanction anyone. These are difficult, uncertain times for many people and we want to do everything we can to help them find work or increase hours, where that is possible for them. No sanction will be used until the claimant has an up-to-date Claimant Commitment in place. After that, a sanction will only be used where a claimant has not provided good reason for meeting the agreed requirements in the Claimant Commitment. Claimants who are shielding, have childcare responsibilities because of COVID restrictions, etc. will have their Claimant Commitment tailored to reflect their circumstances and will not be asked to do anything unreasonable.

This and other benefit issues are also covered in the Benefits Training Co’s July news: https://www.benefitstraining.co.uk/news

CJRS ‘flexible furlough’: Bates Wells summary – whilst aimed at employers – is helpful: https://bateswells.co.uk/2020/06/flexible-furlough-scheme-updates/?hub=coronavirus

SSP FOR THOSE SHIELDING ENDS 31 JULY: The government has confirmed that those shielding will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay on the basis of their shielding status until the 31 July. From 1 August, individuals will no longer be eligible for SSP on the basis of being clinically extremely vulnerable. Your employer should help you to transition back to work safely and support you to keep to social distancing in your workplace (if you can’t work from home). If employers cannot provide a safe working environment, they can continue to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for shielded employees who have already been furloughed.

Read the full guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

HOW PAYMENTS FROM CJRS AND SEISS ARE TREATED BY LEGACY BENEFITS: Useful summary of the rules for means-tested ‘legacy benefits’ including JSA, ESA, Carer’s Allowance and Maternity Allowance (not UC): https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/897319/m-13-20.pdf

DEBT: FCA guidance on personal loans was updated on 3 July. Clients can request a full or partial deferral for up to three months, before 31st October. It’ll be granted if it’s in a client’s best interests. Interest will accrue. https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/finalised-guidance/finalised-guidance-personal-loans-coronavirus-updated-final-guidance-firms.pdf 

There is also useful advice for clients on the FCA website: https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/dealing-financial-difficulties-coronavirus

EU Settlement Scheme [EUSS] – support with applications: From 7 July, Citizens Advice BCP will be offering some face-to-face appointments (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) at Bournemouth Central Library. They will initially work though a waiting list of clients in urgent need of face to face support, but can add clients to this waiting list, or book them in for the next available appointment.

Remember…..EU Nationals have until June 2021 to apply to the scheme BUT they (and their family members) do need to be resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 to be eligible to apply. To contact Citizens Advice BCP:

Email: euss.advice@citizensadvicebcp.org.uk

EUSS Caseworkers: 07761 09270

SUMMARY OF INFORMATION: We are producing a monthly summary of information and advice on employment, benefits, etc, with links to further information. Here is July’s – though following announcements in yesterdays Summer Statement it will probably need further updating shortly:

SAMPLE LETTERS: The Citizens Advice public website has a good selection of sample letters to download and adapt, covering consumer problems, utilities, debts, complaining about adult social care and raising a grievance at work: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/resources-and-tools/list_of_sample_letters/

Help for you organisation

Cranfield Trust: free management support to charities. They have produced a recent webinar (and related materials) – ‘A practical guide to re-opening after Covid19’: https://www.cranfieldtrust.org/pages/166-webinars

Reports, briefings etc

HEALTHWATCH DORSET – Annual Report: The most common areas of comment and concern raised with Healthwatch Dorset last year were around access to GPs, mental health services, primary care services and hospital services, in particular faster diagnosis and treatment, and annual health checks and regular support for people with long-term health conditions.  Concerns were also raised about transport to health and social care services. Read more: https://healthwatchdorset.co.uk/healthwatch-dorset-annual-report-listening-to-local-people-helps-make-health-and-social-care-better/

CITIZENS ADVICE BLOG – Energy Companies: Over the coming months companies will need to support their customers through the impact of Covid-19. In particular, they’ll need to help customers who struggle to top up their prepayment meter, or who have built up debt due to the financial impact of the pandemic. Read more: https://wearecitizensadvice.org.uk/recent-months-have-been-challenging-but-its-still-no-time-to-put-customer-service-on-hold-2c43084a5697

Funding

The Julia and Hans Rausing Trust has set up a £10m charity survival fund to provide core funding to help charities, especially small and medium sized, to offset lost income in the current financial year. Three priority areas: Health and Wellbeing, Welfare and Education, Arts and Culture.

The funding is intended to support core costs of the charity in its usual work (though this may include revised ways of working due to coronavirus/COVID-19 and learnings during lockdown) – it should not be for expansionary work or new projects. This may include salary costs of core staff being brought back from furlough (not project-related posts).

Deadline 27 July. Read more: https://www.juliahansrausingtrust.org/charity-survival-fund/

The Screwfix Foundation, a registered charity created by trade retailers Screwfix in 2013, has re-opened for applications from registered charities and not-for-profit organisations across the UK. To be eligible, applicants must:

  • Be helping those in need by reason of financial hardship, sickness, distress or other disadvantages in the UK.
  • Be looking for funding to support projects that relate to the repair, maintenance, improvement or construction of homes, community buildings and other buildings.

Grants of up to £5,000 are available for projects that relate to the repair, maintenance, improvement or construction of homes, community buildings and other buildings in deprived areas or for those in need.

This can include repairing run-down buildings and decorating the homes of people living with illness and disability. Projects should be environmentally friendly. Read more: https://www.screwfix.com/help/screwfixfoundation/