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

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Information updates

COVID19

Changes from 12 April: Further easing of restrictions – read the details here.

Covid tests – twice a week: This govt campaign encourages people to get into the habit of using lateral flow tests twice a week; testing kits will be available free. Read more here.

BENEFITS

Benefit rates 2021-22: The new rates are here. Most benefits are increasing by 0.5%, in line with CPI inflation. State Pension and Pension Credit have higher increases. Local Housing Allowance rates are frozen. The £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit (UC) is extended until 30 September 2021. Working Tax Credit claimants will get a £500 one-off payment, if they were in receipt of WTC on 2 March; this will be paid automatically.

Benefit overpayment recovery: The staff guide has been updated here. UC Advances can now be repaid over 24 month,  and the maximum deduction rate from UC is reduced from 30% to 25% of the standard allowance.

Universal Credit training scheme: DWP Train and Progress (TaP) is a new DWP initiative aimed at increasing access to training opportunities for claimants, and allows for an extension to the length of time people can receive Universal Credit while undertaking work-focused study. Initially available for 6 months, the amount of time Universal Credit claimants can take part in full-time training will extend to up to 12 weeks throughout Great Britain – up from the current 8 weeks. Read more here.

Council Tax Section 13a –  discretionary reduction: Local authorities have the discretion to award Council Tax discounts of up to
100% of the amount due, under section 13A(1)(c) of the Local Government Finance Act 199). Each authority sets its own scheme; minimum procedural requirements have been set to apply nationally. This is distinct from Council Tax Reduction / Support schemes, which are also run by local authorities. For local information:

HOUSING

Housing Possession Mediation Service: Launched in February 2021, this new mediation pilot was introduced as part of the current court process for housing possession cases. The mediation pilot is free to use for landlords and tenants involved in a housing possession court case and helps resolve cases without the need for a face to face court hearing. You work with a trained, neutral mediator, independent from HM Courts and Tribunals Service, who will help you identify issues and work to resolve them. All parties must agree on the outcome and feel they have reached an acceptable resolution. Read more here.

The govt guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities has also been updated – here.

EMPLOYMENT

Furlough: From 1 May 2021, workers become eligible for furlough if they joined the employer’s payroll between 31 October 2020 and 2 March 2021 (inclusive). The reference date to be used to calculate their furlough pay is 2 March 2021.

SEISS Grant 4: Grant 4, covering the period 1 February to 30 April 2021, can be claimed from the end of April – HMRC will inform those eligible of the exact date. The amount of the grant is 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500. Claims for grant 4 must be made on or before 1 June 2021. Updated guidance is here.

OTHER

EU Settlement Scheme: The deadline for applications from EU citizens who were living in the UK before 31 December 2020 to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is 30 June and it has always been a big concern that there will be many people who have not applied by that time. Late applications may be allowed if there are ‘reasonable grounds’ but it will be much safer if people have applied before the deadline. Citizens Advice information is here, and this is the government’s guide.

Caseworker support with applying for EUSS is available from Citizens Advice BCP.

Census Scam: Action Fraud are warning about scam texts and emails saying you have been fined for not completing the census correctly. Read more here.

Training & Events

Public Law project: PLP is presenting two free workshops to help practitioners, civil society, the wider legal community and other interested parties respond to the Judicial Review Reform consultation by its closing date on 29 April 2021. The consultation is here and the workshops are on Monday 19 April 10 – 12 (remedies and and ouster clauses) – book here – and Tuesday 20 April 2 – 4 (procedural proposals) – book here.

Volunteer Centre –  Understanding What it’s Like to be Autistic: Free zoom session on Thursday 22nd April, 11.00am-12.30pm, 1:00-2:00pm.  This course includes: The four areas of differences; Sensory processing; Social interaction; Communication; Imagination; Interests; Information processing; Understanding ways of thinking; Anxiety…..and more. read more and book here.

Dorset Community Action:

  • Reopening halls, classes and businesses. Wednesday 21 April 10 – 12. £20 for DCA members, £40 for non-members. Book via eventbrite.
  • Networking event for village halls and community buildings. Wednesday 28 April, 11.30. Free. Book via eventbrite.

Reports, research, briefings, blogs

Legal Service Consumer Panel – Advice Deserts likely to become more common: The LSCP;s new Strategy highlights that while legal services are not required on a regular basis by most people, when they are, they become critically important, although many people find services hard to access.

House of Commons briefing – Child Maintenance: This briefing describes how the CMS calculates child maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme in Great Britain. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimated that there were around 2.4 million separated families in the UK, and 3.6 million children living in such families. Around 44% of these families were estimated to have no child maintenance arrangement. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS), which provides a statutory maintenance scheme, was estimated to be the sole organiser of maintenance for around 15% of separated families.Read more here.

TUC – Workplace safety representatives sound alarm as survey reveals widespread Covid-Secure failures: A recent survey has found that, in many cases, employers are failing to follow Covid-secure rules – and this is putting workers at risk of infection and avoidable illness. Read more here.

Citizens Advice – Delivering Debt Advice during a Pandemic: Emergency measures introduced last year may have provided some relief for many people, but we know debt issues will not go away. Citizens Advice data suggests that some people may be simply putting off their debt problem. This may be due to emergency measures which have provided some debt relief. However, arrears are rising at the same time. This suggests an even greater demand for our services in the near future…..read more here.

Citizens Advice – One Renter Every Minute: This research looks at how the pandemic exacerbated existing problems and what that means for the Renters Reform Bill. The key issues were insecurity, poor quality of the accommodation (disrepair and maintenance issues) and affordability. Read more here.

Funding

Proceeds of Crime funding: The 2021 Stop Loan Sharks Community Fund is now open for applications. Community organisations, charities, private companies and social enterprises are encouraged to apply for grants of up to £5,000 from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) for projects to help tackle loan sharks. Collaborative bids between multiple agencies are also welcome. The funding comes from money seized from convicted loan sharks under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

Projects must raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks, reduce crime and disorder and have a positive impact on communities. Read the full story and learn how to apply on their website. Closing date 30 June 2021.

The National Lottery – Bringing People Together fund: Community organisations in the United Kingdom are invited to apply to a new funding programme for projects that will build stronger connections across communities, and improve the infrastructure and conditions that are needed to strengthen these connections.

The fund is interested in bold and experimental responses to bringing people together using new, or new combinations of approaches. All projects will need to:

  • Have a clear equality, diversity and inclusion focus.
  • Deliver across at least two countries in the UK. [Editor’s note: this suggests the fund is aimed at national organisations?]
  • Demonstrate they can learn and adapt as they go.

Grants of up t £300k over 2 years read more here.