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.

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Information updates

COVID PLAN B

Update Government guidance is here, but may need checking regularly….there are also updates to:

Working Safely: Here.

If someone you live with has Covid: If you are aged 18+ and are not fully vaccinated, and you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, you are legally required to stay at home and self-isolate. If you are fully vaccinated (or aged under 18) you are not legally required to self-isolate. However, you are strongly advised to take an LFD test every day for 7 days, and to self-isolate if any of these test results is positive. Read more here. If you come into contact with someone you don’t live with who has Covid, the guidance is here.

Local Information:

NHS- Dorset Covid19 Vaccination Update – two recent updates 13/12/21 and 15/12/21:

Extra financial support:

BCP Household Support Fund: BCP have launched their Together We Can Household Support scheme to help vulnerable families and individuals across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole with access to food and support in paying energy bills. There is a range of help available – here.

Dorset Council – Winter Energy Voucher: These are available to applicants who live in the Dorset Council local authority area and receive Universal Credit and with limited capability for work, or earnings below the free school meals threshold, or free prescriptions threshold. Read more here.

BENEFITS

Access to benefits for people with Pre-Settled Status: There has been a decision in the ‘Fratila’ case- in summary: In December 2020, the Court of Appeal held that the exclusion of pre-settled status (PSS) from being a qualifying right to reside for means-tested benefits was contrary to EU law as it unlawfully discriminated on the grounds of nationality. The DWP’s appeal to the Supreme Court was stayed pending the outcome of Case C-709/20 at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The CJEU held in July 2021 that excluding PSS as a qualifying right to reside is not precluded by EU law. However, it held that before refusing a claim for benefit, the benefit authority must first check that the refusal would not violate the fundamental rights of the claimant and their children to live in dignified conditions (under Articles 1, 7 and 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU). As expected, the Supreme Court has followed the CJEU’s judgment and ruled in favour of the DWP.

This means that advisers will no longer be able to argue that a client who has PSS with no other right to reside can access UC or other means-tested benefits. Advisers should therefore check if they can argue that their client has any potential other (qualifying) right to reside. If there isn’t, some clients may still be able to use the CJEU’s judgment to argue that the exclusion from benefits breaches certain rights under the Charter if this leaves them with no money.

For more information read this Update on Adviser online.

UC and couples where one has ‘No Recourse to Public funds’: UC counts as public funds, but UC still require that a joint claim is made – then they only pay the claim as for a single person – whilst taking into account any earnings of the NRPF partner…….this is complex issue and the recent article in Adviser Online gives a hepful overview. See also below for a recent Citizens Advice report on this issue.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates: These will be frozen for a second year – and come into force from 28 January 2022, so they will be at the rates set for 2020/21. The regulations are here[Rent Officers (Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Functions) (Amendment and Modification) Order 2021].

IMMIGRATION

Skilled worker visa:

There is a new online tool to check whether a job could be eligible for a skilled worker visa. The job will need to be with a licensed employer (the app searches the register as you type in the employer name), and will search the occupation codes as you type in the job role. Don’t forget to check if your client can switch from their existing visa – for example, if they have a visitor’s visa, they can’t. More on switching visas here.

OTHER

Grants for individuals in need: People experiencing financial hardship can now use a new online grants portal to access support from different charities. The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) worked with grant making charities and social impact start up Lightning Social Ventures to create the tool. Using a single application, ACO said the grants system will allow people in financial hardship to find and apply for grants from multiple providers quickly, easily and securely. NB: There is a simple registration process, and then people complete their profile, which allows the site to match them to a funder. This does mean that people need digital skills and access. There is still the grant search tool on Turn2Us which can be used by advisers on behalf of their clients.

Pension Scams: New regulations to help prevent pension savers being subject to scams, came into force on 30 November. There have been cases of fraudsters trying to trick those of pension age into moving their pension pots into fake accounts. The new red and amber flag system allows transfers to be stopped or paused when there are tell-tale signs of fraud, like “too good to be true” incentives such as free pension reviews, early access to pension cash, or other time-limited offers. Read the press release here.

LOCAL NEWS

Wessex Water Partnerhub: The Wessex Water December newsletter includes a round up of the year. if you haven’t signed up for the newsletter do so here. There are also lots of resources here including the Every Customer Matters vulnerability strategy, a video on affordability, the discount scheme for low income pensioners, etc.

Dorchester Community Partnership – Homelessness leaflet. This has recently been updated and includes a number of useful contacts:

Events, webinars, training etc

Cost of Living ‘crunch’: The Resolution Foundation and Citizens Advice co-hosted an interactive webinar on 15 December to consider several questions: What is driving inflation in the UK, and what are prospects for the months ahead? How has, and will, policy ease or exacerbate the squeeze? What difference will an interest rate rise make? And, crucially, how are families coping with the impact of rapidly rising prices, and what can be done to help them through the tough months ahead? Watch the recording of this session here.

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Friday 17 December, 7.30pm – The Truth About Disability Benefits: This Dispatches documentary investigates the unexpected deaths of disabled benefits claimants, including those who have taken their own lives.

HMCTS annual public user event: HMCTS have published recordings from all sessions held at this year’s Annual Public User Event: Reforming court and tribunal services together. This year’s event was held digitally in November, and covered the latest progress of the reform programme across criminal, civil, family and tribunals jurisdictions as well as cross-cutting activity. A number of videos are on YouTube, including (No 17) a presentation ‘Ending the ‘blame game’: the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act’, which previewed the proposed new online application for divorce. The changes are due to be implemented in April 2022.

Budgeting support: Best practice ways to help low-income households. This Policy in Practice webinar on Wednesday 26 January 10.30, will look the support people will need with household budgets, and will include: personal debt in the UK, how organisations from different sectors help people to grow their financial strength, and what supporting role technology can play. Register here.

Research, reports, blogs

How do I survive now? The impact of living with No Recourse to Public Funds. This Citizens Advice report is based on a nationally representative study of people with NRPF, a condition attached to temporary visas which prohibits people from accessing most state benefits and services, including Universal Credit, Child Benefit and social housing. It’s intended to protect the welfare state from short term visitors taking advantage of it. But it’s a policy that, in its scope and its harm, has gone far too far. The research confirms what migrant groups and front line charities have long known – there is a comprehensive picture of hardship……read more here.

Rural Services Network launches new research on rural homelessness: Rural homelessness is an unseen crisis in the countryside, driven by limited access to services and an absence of affordable homes. The extent of the crisis is unclear as limited rural data is captured in official statistics. Trends show that overall homelessness has increased in the last decade and where interventions have helped in urban areas, their impact is less successful in rural communities. A rural housing task force has joined forces to shine a light on the crisis by commissioning a 12-month research collaboration between academics at Kent and Southampton Universities. Read more here.

The Baring Foundation – The Pursuit of Racial Justice through Legal Action: This report presents new research into how civil society campaigners and the lawyers that work with and for them have used legal action to challenge racial injustice and bring about wider social change in the UK since 1990. The overall conclusion is that the law can be a powerful tool for CSOs and their lawyers fighting racial injustice, but they have sometimes struggled to use it effectively for a range of reasons, including cuts to legal aid, the adversarial nature of legal processes which can exacerbate racial tensions; and that lawyers and those who work in civil society organisations are not necessarily trained to be anti-racist. Read more here.

Govt Press release – employers not paying NMW: Over 200 employers have been named and shamed by government for failing to pay their lowest paid staff the minimum wage. The press release includes a link to the report.

What is loan fee fraud? Citizens Advice has asked the FCA to explain…… A loan fee scam happens when you’re asked to pay an upfront fee for a loan which you will never receive. The lender may ask you to pay for the loan in an unusual way, such as iTunes vouchers. It also happens to people who find it more difficult to get mainstream loans. Loan fee fraud happens especially at Christmas when you’re pressured to spend more than usual. Read more here, and check if a company is registered on the FCA website.

Funding News

Your Best Friend Fund is distributing £300,000 in grants to organisations and groups based in England and Wales to create their own ideas and projects that support Your Best Friend’s aims. They expect to give 30-40 small grants of £1,000 – £10,000 and 6-8 large grants between £10,000 and £25,000. They say:

We listened to hundreds of girls, young women and non-binary young people to find out what they see their friends experiencing in all types of relationships and what stops young people from spotting toxic behaviours and red flags. They told us what helps them, or stops them, intervening if their friend is in a toxic relationship and what would make them seek professional advice. You can apply for a grant to use these ideas in your own groups and organisations, or to develop ideas of your own. All we ask is that your idea or project must:

  • increase understanding about healthy, unhealthy and toxic relationships
  • give people the knowledge and confidence to know how to keep their friends safe

Small grants programme is rolling, but deadline for large grants is 18 February 2022; read more here.

Social Enterprise Support Fund: The fund wants to reach the most marginalised communities and to promote inclusion. They want to support social enterprises that are helping communities affected by COVID-19 to recover, and to help social enterprises themselves to recover and rebuild their trading.

Grants from £10,000 to £100,000, can be used for:

  • Helping you get your social enterprise back on track: eg. the costs of getting trading back up and running, supporting outreach and marketing, supporting your costs while your business gets back to full strength, developing new markets and services etc.
  • Helping you work with communities that are recovering: eg. supporting communities that have been hard hit by COVID-19, for example, supporting people to get back to work, helping marginalised children catch up with education, supporting families who have been bereaved, providing services for people affected by long COVID etc.

Read more here.