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 usually 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:  mailto:caroline.buxton@centralca.org.uk

Covid-19 Information Updates

EMPLOYMENT – Guidance for those ‘shielding’: from 1 August the guidance for clinically vulnerable people who have been shielding is changing as follows:

  • Shielding workers could return to the workplace if it’s safe.
  • Shielding workers should talk to their employer about plans to help them return.
  • If workers can continue to work from home, the employer should support this.

When someone’s can’t be done at home, their employer should keep them safe from coronavirus, by for example:

  • letting them travel to work at quieter times of the day
  • reducing how much face-to-face contact the emplyee has with the public
  • making sure that staff stay at least 2 metres apart in the workplace

Local infection rates may also have to be part of the conversation. For more information go to; https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/coronavirus-if-youre-worried-about-working/

Other implications of this:

  • STATUTORY SICK PAY: From 1 August, workers advised by NHS England to shield will lose entitlement to SSP. Workers unable to return to work because of illness, and no longer covered by shielding, will need to get a sick note and follow the employer’s sickness absence procedure.
  • Furlough? The pause on shielding doesn’t automatically mean the employer will end furlough. Furlough can continue, but for shielding workers losing SSP entitlement, furlough isn’t an option unless they’ve previously been furloughed for at least 3 weeks prior to the end of June.  

Redundancy whilst furloughed: We are anticipating more questions on redundancy over the next few months A common one is if someone is made redundant whilst furloughed, how is their pay calculated? The answer is, if your employer is working out your average weekly pay, they should base it on the last 12 weeks you actually worked. This is about to be clarified in new legislation, so that if any weeks on fulough are counted, this has to be at the normal wages (not the furloghed rate); see this hot-off-the-press Govt announcement:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-law-to-ensure-furloughed-employees-receive-full-redundancy-payments

See also information from Citizens Advice, ACAS and Working Families:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/leaving-a-job/redundancy/redundancy-pay/

https://www.acas.org.uk/your-rights-during-redundancy

https://workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/coronavirus-redundancy/#redundancyfurlough

SEISS scheme: Just a reminder that there is a second round; the closing date for applications will be 19 October 2020 and applicants must be able to show that their business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July. The scheme permits claims for a taxable grant worth 70% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total. There are some chnages:

  • As with the first grant HMRC will contact you if you’re eligible. HMRC will work out your eligibility for the second grant in the same way as the first grant.
  • You can make a claim for the second grant if you’re eligible, even if you did not make a claim for the first grant. 
  • If you receive the grant you can continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work, or duties as a military reservist.
  • The grant doesn’t need to be repaid but will be subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance contributions.
  • https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

BENEFITS – updates from the DWP’s ‘Touchbase’ newsletter

Medical evidence for ESA: Information from the DWP: As part of the Department’s response to COVID-19, the requirement to provide medical evidence to support claims to ESA and new style ESA was deferred. We are now reintroducing this requirement on a phased basis. All new claims received from 10 July 2020 for ESA and new style ESA must be supported by medical evidence. ‘For claims in existence prior to 10 July 2020, medical evidence will be introduced gradually and we will write to all of those claimants advising the date from which they are required to provide evidence in the coming weeks.

Run-on of legacy benefits: If someone’s existing claim of income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support ends due to them applying for Universal Credit they will now receive a new, additional payment, worth up to two weeks of their legacy award.  This will be paid automatically and does not have to be paid back. This change came into effect on 22 July.

http://news.dwp.gov.uk/dwplz/lz.aspx?p1=MPADUwMDEyMVMyODE0OkUyMDQzQzU5RjRCRDYzNEI2QUE1RkNCNzRFM0ExMjIz-&CC=&p=0

Personal Independence Payment [PIP] awards ending between 24 March and 2 October 2020 – will run on for a further 6 months.

Married Woman and extra state pension: Married women who got to state pension age before April 2016 could be missing out on £1,000s of extra state pension. This is because if their basic state pension is less than 60% of their husband’s, they are due a top up to that amount, but many didn’t get it either due to a computer glitch, or because they didn’t know they had to claim. Read the article on Money Saving expert, and contact the Pension Service if you or your client have been affected:

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/06/tens-of-thousands-of-married-women-could-be-missing-out-on-p1-00/

https://www.gov.uk/contact-pension-service

HOUSING

Shelter have updated their Covid-19 housing advice as of 24 July. Courts will restart dealing with evictions from 24 August. For rent and mortgage possession proceedings ‘stayed’ before 3 August claimants must provide a ‘reactivation notice’. Remember that for private tenants there is no change to the fact that provided notice is served correctly there is little chance of stopping possession being granted. Also, Court bailiffs will start operating again from 24 August; they must send a notice 2 weeks before someone is due to be evicted.

https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/coronavirus

TRAVELLING ABROAD or RETURNING FROM ABROAD have become more complex recently! For a good summary and links to other information go to: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/#h-if-you-re-planning-on-travelling-abroad

IMMIGRATION:People with visas that expired between 24 January and 31 July will now have an extra “grace period” of one month until 31 August to stay in the UK. The same conditions (allowing work or study etc) will apply as the original visa that was granted. Read more: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

Briefings

Dorset Community Action: You can view recent webinars on subjects such as re-opening community spaces and creating a more digitally inclusive voluntary sector, here: https://www.dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk/support-webinars-during-covid-19/

Reports

CPAG: Mind the Gaps – reporting on families’ incomes during the pandemic. This briefing, from 24 July, covers EU Nationals’ right to reside issues and related problems: https://cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/policypost/CPAG-mind-the-gaps-briefing-24%20July.pdf

Citizens Advice blog: Why ASKing about domestic abuse helps our clients and how we do it safely. For the last 5 years Citizens Advice has developed the ASK programme to train and support advisers to directly ask clients if they have been “hurt or frightened” by their partner or a family member and offer information and advice if they have. The programme is being evaluated and you can read more about it here: https://wearecitizensadvice.org.uk/why-asking-about-domestic-abuse-helps-our-clients-and-how-we-do-it-safely-2c0030c9face

Funding

Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund: Second (and final) phase of this grant programme is now open until 28 August.

The overall aim of the Fund is to support local voluntary and community organisations that are helping vulnerable people impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Phase 2 will see grant making transition from the initial immediate relief to a longer-term emergency phase, looking to support those who are suffering hardship as a result of the short and long term economic and social consequences caused by COVID-19.

Groups funded in phase 1 will NOT be given higher or lower priority. Priority will be given to groups who are reaching the most vulnerable or at greatest risk of negative social, health or economic impact as a result of COVID-19.

Grants to replace loss of income caused directly by Covid-19 can now be offered but only where services/activities are now being delivered and align with Fund priorities. In these cases, additional financial information may be requested following the application.

Groups can apply for EITHER

  • Fast track grants of up to £2,000 (must be spent within 3 months)

OR one of the following

  • Grants of up to £5,000 (supporting services/activities up to 31st March 2021)
  • Grants of up to £10,000 for partnership applications where two or more groups are delivering a joint service (supporting services/activities up to 31st March 2021)

Read more: https://www.dorsetcommunityfoundation.org/dorset-coronavirus-community-fund/

Next Steps Accommodation Programme:

New funding of £266 million available to local authorities, registered providers, and their local partners across England to engage with the next stage of the COVID-19 Rough Sleeping response. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is providing new funding engage with the next stage of their COVID-19 Rough Sleeping response.

The overall objectives of the Next Steps Accommodation Programme are to reduce rough sleeping and to seek to ensure rough sleepers brought into emergency accommodation in response to COVID-19, do not return to sleeping rough. There are two different aspects to this fund:

  • Shorter-term/interim accommodation and immediate support. The funding can cover a range of interventions, from moves into the private rented sector, to extending or procuring interim accommodation such as hotels or student accommodation and supporting individuals to reconnect with friends or family.
  • Longer-term Move-on Accommodation. Organisations wishing to bid must clearly demonstrate in their proposal how the funding will be used to bring forward long-term, move-on accommodation.

Although applications have to come from local authorities, there are potential partnership opportunities! Closing date 20 August 2020. Read more; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/next-steps-accommodation-programme-guidance-and-proposal-templates