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 Central Dorset delivers high quality advice and support to local residents, whatever their issue. Currently there are several part time vacancies:

Advice Session Supervisors for three of our main offices. This could either be separate positions for each office, combined roles or a Job share. All roles have a permanent contract with an immediate start date.
Gillingham Office
Hours: 14 Hours per week – MONDAY and WEDNESDAY
Salary: £13.57 per hour – £9879 (per annum)
Dorchester Office
Hours: 7 Hours per week – FRIDAY
Salary: £13.57 per hour – £4939 (per annum)
Weymouth Office
Hours: 14 Hours per week – THURSDAY and FRIDAY
Salary: £13.57 per hour – £9879 (per annum)

Sherborne Coordinator:

21 hours per week
£14.56 per hour (£15,900 per annum)
We are recruiting a Coordinator role to support our experienced and motivated Sherborne team of volunteers. Responsible to our Advice Services Manager, we are looking for somebody to provide day to day support to the team to enable them to deliver a valued and consistent service to local residents. Read more:

Information updates

November fact sheet:

BUDGET

Budget and Spending Review – October 2021: What you need to know – this is the Government’s summary.

There is also a good overview on revenuebenefits, key bullet points on The Benefits Training Co’s News page, and analysis from the Resolution Foundation.

Citizens Advice response to the Budget: The Chancellor announced investments in Universal Credit worth £2.2 billion. This includes a reduction in the UC taper rate from 63p to 55p and an increase to the Work Allowance by £500. Although this falls well short of our call to reinstate the £20 Universal Credit increase, we have welcomed the changes which will have a positive impact on some of our clients in low paid work. Citizens Advice will continue to press the government to address the cost of living crisis. Read more here. CPAG raised similar points in their blog, here.

BENEFITS

Universal Credit – changes announced in the budget: We understand that the following changes will be introduced by 1 December 2021:

  • The taper rate that applies to earnings in Universal Credit will be reduced from 63% to 55%
  • The work allowance will increased by £500 a year for households with children or where a household member has limited capability for work
  • The temporary increase in the surplus earnings threshold to £2,500 will continue until April 2023 when it will be reduced to £300.

Extension (until 22 March 2022) to coronavirus related provisions for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): Those affected by coronavirus and who meet other eligibility conditions can continue to be treated as having limited capability for work for ESA without submitting a fit note (but note other evidence requirements depending on the situation) and won’t have to serve waiting days. The regulations are here.

HOUSING

Support Package for vulnerable renters: People struggling due to the impact of the pandemic will be helped by a £65 million support package announced by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on 23 October 2021. The funding will be given to councils in England to support low-income earners in rent arrears – helping to prevent homelessness and support families get back on their feet. Read the press release here.

EMPLOYMENT

Exemptions for Covid vaccinations: The government has updated chapter 14a of the green book – which provides details of medical conditions considered to be risky for Covid-19 vaccinations. This includes an update of definitions for clinical vulnerability and further advice on booster vaccinations for those with certain conditions.

IMMIGRATION

Local Immigration Support: As part of Citizens Advice BCP’s plan to tackle the rising need for free, accessible immigration advice they are setting up a pilot scheme offering free Immigration advice from a drop in clinic, twice monthly, for the next 6 months. The clinic will be lead by Rob Suddrey, a local immigration adviser at OISC Level 3. Rob has kindly donated his time, and the BCP team will be observing the work, with a view to continuing training in this advice area. Flyer below lists the dates of sessions at Bournemouth Library:

Afghan refugees: The home office Operation Warm Welcome factsheet has recently been updated – here.

TRAVEL

‘Red List’: At 4am on 1 November, all 7 remaining countries (Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela) were removed from the red list of countries.

Tests on return to England: From 24 October, people can now take a lateral flow tests. This applies to fully vaccinated travellers. Tests are available to book – travellers can’t use NHS lateral flow tests. People will be able to upload a photo to verify their test result. Anyone testing positive will be able to follow this up with a free PCR test from the NHS. Tests should be taken on or before day 2.

OTHER

HMCTS – Court Service Vulnerability Action Plan: This has been updated – here – to highlight the action taken to:

  • support vulnerable people so they have access to court and tribunal services
  • ensure services are accessible during coronavirus
  • introduce signposting
  • collate evidence on the impact of coronavirus on users

Support for care leavers: The House of Commons Library has published an updated briefing on the support available for care leavers – defined as young people aged over 16 leaving local authority care.

Independent Case Examiner: The ICE deal with complaints made by users of DWP and a range of other services such as the Child Support Agency, Pensionwise. etc. People must have already made a complaint through the organisation’s own internal procedure and have received the organisation’s final response before contacting ICE, otherwise they will not accept or investigate the complaint. Complaints to the ICE can be about:

  • failure to follow proper procedures
  • excessive delays
  • poor customer service
  • original complaint not dealt with satisfactorily by DWP or contracted organisation

Read more on their website here, and their annual report is here. This includes the comment that they see ‘a steady stream of cases raising concern about misdirection in transitioning to UC.’ In one example, the claimant had tried to claim new style ESA but was told by the DWP that they had to claim UC. They did so but their claim for UC was disallowed due to savings of over £16,000. The couple’s child tax credit (CTC) award was terminated by the UC claim and they could not reclaim it.

Tesco Reconnect: Tesco are running a scheme called Reconnect until 2023 and it is aimed at vulnerable and disadvantaged people. A phone is supplied to the customer with three months credit. You submit your request by emailing tescomobile.littlehelps@tesco.com referencing Tesco Mobile Reconnects, how it would benefit the service user and what device is needed and they will send one out. For more on the scheme and the Tesco partnership with Crisis: here.

ENERGY

More energy suppliers go bust: Bluegreen Energy Services Limited, Omni Energy Limited, MA Energy Limited, Zebra Power Limited and Ampower Ltd have ceased trading. Details of who will take over their customers are still pending but will be on the Ofgem website in due course.

Warm Homes Discount: Whether an energy company is offering WHD to the ‘broader group’ of people is a changing picture at the moment. Basic details about WHD are here, and below is a list of utility companies and their schemes, up to date as at 22 October 2021.

Events

Trustees Week 1 – 5 November: Now in its 11th year, Trustees’ Week is a “celebration of the great work you do. It is the time of year when we come together to mark the achievements of the UK’s one million trustees. This is an opportunity to use the wide range of guidance, resources and online training to develop your skills, make new connections with other trustees and share your achievements more widely”. Read more here.

Talk Money Week 8-12 November: People in the UK don’t talk about their money enough……. On the road to recovery from the pandemic, financial wellbeing, alongside physical and mental wellbeing will be crucial. Talk Money Week is designed to increase people’s sense of financial wellbeing by encouraging them to open up about personal finance – from pocket money to pensions. An opportunity for everyone to get involved with events and activities across the UK, it’s run by the Money & Pensions service and there is more info here, including a link to a Participation Pack.

DCA – Winter Energy Crisis 2021 – Fuel Poverty: Free on-line session on Tuesday 16 November 1 – 2pm. More info and booking here. Other dates are available – see full listings here.

CAN (Community Action Network) BCP is also listing a number of training courses and events, including a ‘meet the funder’ webinar on 16 November, more details here.

Reports etc

Consultation on regulation of Buy Now Pay Later [BNPL]: HM Treasury is consulting on the regulation of interest-free ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ (BNPL) loan products. The consultation closes on 6 January 2022. Read more and respond here.

Transparency in the Family Courts: A review by the judiciary into transparency in the family justice system has now been published – here. It has been suggested that there needs to be a cultural change to increase transparency and public confidence in the family court decision making process, whilst protecting the confidentiality of families and children who seek protection. There is also commentary on the review from the Transparency Project, here.

CPAG – access to UC for refugees: Those with refugee status in the UK can apply for their family members to join them under ‘family reunion rules.’ If a refugee claiming UC is joined by their partner, his or her existing single claim should stop and they can claim UC as a couple. If a refugee is not joined by a partner, only children or other dependants, the existing UC claim should be amended to include them in the award. However, this process is often beset with delays, leaving families with little or no income. Read more here.

Immigration Advice – Filling the Void: This Citizens Advice BCP Briefing explores the links between insecure immigration status and destitution, homelessness, financial difficulties, food insecurity and joblessness within our community. It looks at:

  • The growing need for immigration advice that is free at the point of access
  • The current availability of immigration advice within our local area
  • The compelling reasons to invest in immigration services, including how immigration advice can clearly assist in rebuilding, reinvigorating and boosting our local workforce post Covid-19
  • A clear strategy for long term change in immigration advice in BCP

Legal Aid: The Westminster Commission’s recent report surmises that there will be increased demand for legal assistance as we emerge from the Covid pandemic and recommends restoring legal aid for early legal advice to pre LAPSO Act (2012) levels in all areas of social welfare law. Read more here.

Funding News

Round 2 of Dorset Council’s Community and Culture Fund (CCPF) is now open for applications. Applicants can apply online for between £1,000 and £5,000 and must meet at least one of the councils’ corporate objectives. The fund welcomes applications across a range of themes including Community, Culture (Arts, Museums and Heritage), Play and Physical Activity.

Applications for projects and one-off events that meet the funds criteria and focus on supporting marginalised or under-represented groups in the Dorset council area are encouraged to apply.

Newly established groups (formed in the last 12 months) can apply for a maximum of £1,500. Applications received by 7th January 2022 will be assessed in February 2022 and final awards will be confirmed to successful applicants in early March 2022. Projects will need to be able to start in April 2022. Organisations or groups wishing to apply will be required to provide at least 20% of the cost of their project themselves, and any award made will be conditional upon this funding being in place before the start of the project. Projects must be completed by end of March 2023.

Read more, and apply, here.