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 – Debt Unit Supervisor: The Citizens Advice offices in Dorset are setting up a county-wide Debt Unit to improve the provision and quality of debt advice across the area, by providing technical support and guidance to advisers, and improved coordination of debt advice.


The Debt Unit Supervisor is a role which requires both an understanding of the debt advice process, and the ability to set up, develop and coordinate a new unit. The Supervisor will be employed by Citizens Advice Central Dorset and will work with key personnel in other Local Citizen Advices. The Supervisor will carry a small debt caseload to ensure on-going technical understanding of debt advice which meets Citizens Advice quality standards and complies with FCA regulations.

Hours: 29 Hours per week
Salary: £13.57 per hour (£20,464 Actual / £26,109 FTE)
Location: Remote (Home) and Dorset Council Area
Start Date: As soon as possible
Term: 9 Months

Read more:

Citizens Advice Central Dorset is also advertising for two part time Advice Session Supervisors, £13.57 per hour, one for Dorchester on Fridays and the other for Weymouth on Thursdays and Fridays. There is also a vacancy for a Sherborne Coordinator role to support our experienced and motivated Sherborne team of volunteers. This is 21 hours per week, £14.56 per hour (£15,900 per annum). More details and application forms are on the CACD website, and adverts are below:


Information updates

EMPLOYMENT

Coronavirus – DHSC guidance for pregnant employees: Updated guidance for pregnant employees during the Covid-19 pandemic includes several key changes:

  • the change of focus from separate recommendations for pre and post 28 weeks pregnancy to those at any stage of gestation depending on their vaccination status
  • updated advice on vaccination including that pregnant women should be offered their vaccinations at the same time as non-pregnant women in their age or risk group
  • the ending of shielding and social distancing measures
  • emphasis on workplace risk assessments

Access to Work Factsheet: Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support for people with a disability or long term physical or mental health condition. An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support to help you:

  • start working
  • stay in work
  • move into self-employment or start a business

More information here.

BENEFITS

Claimant commitments – ESA and JSA: The obligations in new style JSA and ESA benefits have been brought in line with those in Universal Credit. This will mean that, as is the case for Universal Credit claimants, if someone in receipt of new style JSA and ESA fails to do what they have agreed to in their Claimant Commitment without good reason their payments may be reduced for a set period. This is known as a sanction. Disability Rights has a fact sheet on sanctions.

Touchbase notes that “All Claimant Commitments are tailored to a person’s personal circumstances and local jobs market, and claimants affected by this change are being informed of the introduction of the new process. Sanctions are only applied as a last resort when a claimant is not engaging with the commitment they have made. If someone disagrees with a decision they can ask for it to be looked at again”.

Disabled students and Universal Credit: Claimants who are ‘receiving education’ (referred to as ‘students’ here) are generally unable to qualify for UC, although there are exceptions. An exception currently applies to students who receive a disability benefit and have been found to have limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA). These claimants are commonly referred to as disabled students. However, for UC claims made on or after 15 December 2021, this exception will will only apply to students who both get the disability benefit and have been determined to have LCW or LCWRA before they started receiving education. This is more restrictive than the current exception, which requires disabled students whose course has already started to have had a determination of LCW or LCWRA before the date of their UC claim.

Before the change, disabled students could make a claim for national insurance credits on the basis of LCW, commonly referred to as a ‘credits-only claim’ for new-style ESA. If found to have LCW or LCWRA following a work capability assessment, they could then claim UC under the exception. This change means that, for UC claims from 15 December, this workaround will not help disabled students whose course has already started. Disabled students currently attempting the ‘credits-only ESA’ claim may now need further advice.

DWP updated website on Understanding UC is here.

Changes to UC: In a recent debate, Work and Pensions Secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey stated that the DWP’s intention is to increase work allowances and reduce the taper rate to 55% by 24 November 2021. Info on UC work allowances is here.

HOUSING

Possession hearings: Special arrangements which started in September 2020 introduced extra review dates for hearings and ‘Covid marking’; these arrangements ended on 1 November 2021. This applies to both rent possession and mortgage possession hearings. This means:

  • courts are no longer required to list an initial ‘review date’ for hearings
  • the ‘Covid-19 Case Marking’ provision, which enabled a claimant, defendant or the court to highlight suitability for settlement or particular difficulties resulting from the pandemic no longer applies
  • courts no longer need to prioritise the listing of cases involving rent arrears exceeding 12 months worth, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence and a further non-exhaustive list of factors

However Mortgage lenders should still follow the FCA’s guidance on tailored support, which confirms that firms taking steps to enforce repossession of properties should only do so as a last resort and in accordance with FCA rules and guidance. 

IMMIGRATION

EEA family members who can still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS): Even though the deadline to apply to the EUSS was 30 June 2021 close family members of people with EUSS status – or who are entitled to it – can still apply to the scheme into the future. There are also other groups who can still apply including extended family members who held, or applied for, EEA residence documents before 31 December 2020. The main requirement for all family members is that the relationship with their sponsor existed before 31 December 2020, unless they are children born after that date. Read the recent article on Advice Online and don’t forget Citizens Advice BCP can still provide specialist support on EUSS issues – follow this link.

New DWP guidance for claimants without a status under the European Union Settlement Scheme
The DWP have issued new guidance to their decision makers on how a claimant can continue to be entitled to benefits, while awaiting a settlement scheme decision: ADM 19-21 and ADM Memo 14-21.

OTHER

Domestic abuse: There is a new easy read guide from the govt on how to get help, here.

Latest energy company news: CNG Energy has ceased trading. Ofgem has announced Suppliers of Last Resort for the following failed suppliers:

CNG Energy Limited –   Pozitive Energy
Omni Energy Limited –  Utilita
MA Energy Limited   –   SmartestEnergy
Zebra Power Limited –   British Gas
Ampoweruk Ltd   – Yu Energy
Bluegreen Energy Services Limited – British Gas

You can check who’s taken over your energy supply for regular up to date information on which companies have taken over energy suppliers who have gone bust. 

Scams:

  • Scams Action reports on a friend-in-need scam — where a scammer poses as someone you know to get you to give them money or asks you to forward a 6-digit PIN number. Citizens Advice is supporting WhatsApp’s campaign in partnership with National Trading Standards’ Friends Against Scams to Stop.Think.Call
  • Which? reports on another fake covid pass scam.

Events, consultations, training courses etc

EHRC webinar on new fund for legal cases which tackle racial discrimination: Tuesday 23 November 2-3pm. Following on from the success of its legal work involving educational providers and transport operators, the Equality and Human Rights Commission will help victims of racial discrimination seek justice by providing vital support for court cases including funding and legal expertise. Find out more and book here.

Dorset Council – Dorset Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021 – 2024 consultation: Dorset residents and stakeholders are invited to have their say on the draft Dorset Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021-2024.   The consultation runs for four weeks from Monday 15 November to midnight on Sunday 12 December 2021 and we want to know what you think of our proposals.  Have we got the priorities right? Is there anything we have missed?

The consultation is open to everyone who wishes to express a view on the strategy – there is an option at the start to select if you are an individual or responding on behalf of an organisation. The draft strategy sets out how Dorset Council will work with organisations and communities in Dorset to tackle domestic abuse over the next three years.

Transgender Week 13 – 19 November:  A week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces. Various organisations have information and resources for example: TUC , NAHT.

Safeguarding Adults Week, 15 – 22 November: Safeguarding Adults Week is a time for organisations to come together to raise awareness of important safeguarding issues. The aim is to highlight safeguarding key issues, facilitate conversations and to raise awareness of safeguarding best practice. A good source of information and resources is the Ann Craft Trust. CAN BCP have updated their fact sheet here:

Carers Dorset Festival – 25 November: The day is made up of 2 live events and 30 digital sessions. It celebrates Carers Rights Day by bringing together unpaid carers and organisations across Dorset. Caring for your future is the focus of these events. The aim is to make carers aware of their rights, ensure carers know where to get help and support, adn raise raising awareness of your needs. read more here.

Illegal Money Lending Team’s Christmas Campaign launch – 29 November: The campaign will highlight the dangers of using loan sharks and signpost people to support. Research carried out by the IMLT has found that Christmas is the second highest reason that people borrow money from loan sharks. This year, there are likely more families impacted financially and emotionally and unfortunately, illegal lenders will look to take advantage of those in difficult situations. We want to stop this exploitation of vulnerable people.

The campaign #AllIWantForChristmas will run across Stop Loan Sharks’ social media channels until December 5. It aims to encourage families to avoid using loan sharks over the festive period and report the crime if they have been affected. It also focuses on informing people about the help available if they are struggling with debt and safer ways to borrow money. We’ve provided everything you’ll need to let people know the signs to look out for when dealing with loan sharks, how to report the crime and how to borrow money safely. You can support the campaign by downloading and sharing our campaign assets here. More info on the work of the IMLT is here and their next courses for frontline workers are as follows:

  • Session 1 – Could you spot a loan shark? Tuesday 25 January 10.30 – 12. Book here
  • Session 2 – Changing Lives: A borrower’s journey and the part you play; A continuing learning opportunity for those who have already received Stop Loan Sharks training. Friday 18 January 10.30 – 12. Book here.

Keeping Communities Safe During Winter webinar: Thursday 25 November at 11.00 am The Cabinet Office and UK Health Security Agency will be hosting the next in the series of Keeping Communities Safe During Winter webinars on Zoom to support community and faith leaders, voluntary and community groups with their ongoing engagement and communications. As well as providing an overview of the most up-to-date Government guidance, the webinar will feature presentations on the continuing importance of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu this winter and community engagement lessons to be learned from dealing with the pandemic so far. There will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions, share ideas for more effective engagement and to inform the Government about challenges and barriers faced by your local communities. Click here to register.

‘Benefits and Training’ have a range of online training materials, including an online video on claiming PIP here.

Research, reports blogs, etc

Energy debt – Citizens Advice blog: Many more households are likely to fall behind on their energy bills and get into debt. For people in receipt of benefits, one way to manage debt repayments is through third party deductions, whereby the Department for Work and Pensions takes money directly from their benefit payments and gives it to their energy supplier to cover their debt and ongoing energy usage. Recent research looked at the level of deductions made, difficulties people had finding out a out about the scheme, and also found that some energy suppliers weren’t always sure whether the scheme should be offered to all customers in debt or whether it should be reserved as a ‘last resort’ option. Read more here.

HSE prosecute landlord over gas safety: The Health and Safety Executive has successfully prosecuted a landlord over a failure to comply with gas safety regulations. The landlord failed in her duty to have gas appliances in a property which she was renting regularly maintained and inspected and failed to provide a gas safety record. The landlord has been sentenced to:

  • a 12-month community order
  • 100 hours of unpaid community work 
  • ordered to pay costs of £3,292.05 and a victim surcharge of £85

Read the press release here, and if you have tenants who have cocerns about gas safety there is a useful list of FAQs on the HSE website here.

‘Levelling up’ through employment: The role of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector in partnership with the health and social care sector. This report form Citizens Advice collaboratively explores how the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector is, or can, positively influence the levelling up agenda around employment – and associated issues – through co-production of local initiatives alongside local health and social care delivery. Focusing on four fieldwork areas (Liverpool, Gosport, Knowsley and Walsall), the report offers insight from the VCSE sector about the challenges and enablers to levelling up in their local area; and identifies how the VCSE and health and care sector can work collaboratively and co-productively to set priorities and take joint action on this agenda at a local level. Read more here.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation – where next for social security after recent UC announcements? This blog looks at the changes to UC work allowances etc in the Budget, highlighting that these will not help those either unable to work, or not currently in work, who will therefore face severe consequences from the loss of the £20/week uplift. Read more here. This includes a link to a more detailed Briefing on the adequacy of social security.

Funding news

Ocado Foundation for Good: Grants of up to £1,000 to charities, charitable companies, and local authorities to support skills and education development and promote sustainability in communities across the UK. The fund aims to support ‘the many not the few’ and to help develop a sustainable strategy for the future based on the Foundation’s three pillars of corporate responsibility:

  • Skills for the future.
  • Natural resources.
  • Responsible sourcing.

Closing date 31 December 2021; read more.

Lloyds Bank Foundation: If you haven’t visited their website before, there is good clear information on what they will fund, and an eligibility checker. It may be getting a bit late for 2021 but worth bearing in mind for 2022.