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 and volunteer roles

Citizens Advice South Somerset (based in the Yeovil Office) – Adviser and Trainee Caseworker: Flexible options from 18 – 37 hours per week, £20,967 – £23,649 pa pro rata depending on experience. You will join a friendly and busy advice team. The successful applicant will be “a people person” and a very confident communicator. This role is best suited to someone that works to high standards of accuracy and who has experience of working 1:1 with clients (in an advising or similar role) and completing detailed and accurate client case records. Training to the Advice Quality Standard will be considered for someone with relevant experience who lacks a formal advice qualification. More info here.

Information updates

UKRAINE

Govt information updated 6 April: here.

Benefits: DWP guidance confirms that the regulations exempt from the past presence test and habitual residence test:

  • Those with a pre-existing right of abode in the UK; and
  • Those granted leave under or outside the Immigration Rules, who have recourse to public funds

Clients will come under the exception if they were residing in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022 and left in connection with the invasion.The guidance states that the new regulations should be taken into account for any decision made from 22 March 2022 onwards, including where the claim was made before then.

Read the regulations here.

Homes for Ukraine

Council tax discounts: In force from 12 April 2022 the Council Tax (Discount Disregards and Exempt Dwellings) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022 provide that guests sponsored under the Homes for Ukraine scheme will be disregarded for council tax discounts to protect:

  • A sponsor’s single person discount
  • The 50 percent discount received by households where all the occupants are already disregarded
  • In addition, guests being accommodated in an exempt dwelling under the Homes for Ukraine scheme won’t affect its exempt status

Council tax reduction/support: As it’s not possible for local council tax support (also known as council tax reduction) schemes to be changed after the start of the financial year councils will be expected to use S13A discretionary payments to make sure that sponsors don’t have to pay more council tax as a result of the offering their homes for the scheme.

Insurance: The Association of British Insurers has confirmed that sponsors offering homes for Ukraine will be protected from any changes to their home insurance costs. Their cover will remain the same for the first 12 months, even if their policy is due for renewal.

OTHER INFORMATION

BENEFITS

Benefit uprating: For most benefits, the new rates come into effect this week. For Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Pension Credit, these apply at the start of the client’s first benefit week beginning on or after 11 April.

New UC rates, including the rates of other benefits being taken into account as income for UC, apply from the start of the first assessment period beginning on or after 11 April. New Tax Credit and Housing Benefit rates have already come into effect.

As a result of minimum wage rates increasing:

  • The ESA permitted work higher limit is increasing from £143 to £152 per week
  • The monthly earnings threshold for exemption from the benefit cap in UC is increasing to £658.67
  • The threshold at which clients will be exempt from work-related requirements in UC will increase
  • The amount of self-employed earnings clients are treated as having under the UC minimum income floor UC will increase
  • The administrative earnings threshold in UC is increasing for single claimants from £345 to £355, and for joint claimants from £552 to £567.

The benefit cap level, and Local Housing Allowance rates, are not being uprated.

For more information go to: DWP Benefit and Pension rates and HMRC for details on tax credits and guardian’s allowance.

Complaints: People wishing to make a complaint about Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit can do so online, here.

Personal Independence Payment – extending awards: DWP MInister Chloe Smith has confirmed that the Department has developed an ‘automated digital solution’ to extend personal independence payment (PIP) awards to prevent them going out of payment due to delays in assessments being carried out.

New Pension Credit campaign: The DWP has launched a new campaign calling on pensioners, and their friends and family, to check eligibility for Pension Credit. The campaign begins with social and digital channels this month, with national/regional newspaper advertising to follow in the coming months. Pension Credit gives pensioners extra financial support with living costs if they are on a low income. More than 1.4 million pensioners in Britain claim it but new figures show many more could be missing out. There is a Toolkit for advice and guidance stakeholders.

DWP Bereavement Services – new single phone number – 0800 151 2012: This can be used to –

  • Report a death, provide information and find out what support is available following a bereavement
  • Make a new or, manage an existing claim for Bereavement Benefit or Bereavement Support Payment
  • Make a new or, manage an existing claim for Funeral Expenses Payments
  • Request State Pension updates following the death of a spouse or civil partner

COST OF LIVING ISSUES

Money Saving Expert – Cost of Living Survival Kit: Martin Lewis and his team have produced a list of 90 ways to save money – here.

Help with energy costs: Citizens Advice have produced 2 leaflets for people struggling to pay their energy costs; one is aimed at those with pre-payment meters.

EMPLOYMENT

Guidance for those with Covid or other respiratory infections: The government has published new guidance to cover those with Covid or other infectious viruses following the withdrawal of legal requirements to take specific measures. The advice is to stay home if you feel too unwell to work, and take appropriate measures to protect others if you have to go out (for example masks and social distancing). If you have tested positive but are asymptomatic, it is recommended to work from home for the first 5 days if possible. More information here.

OTHER

New Divorce and civil partnership dissolution forms: Forms to apply for a divorce, dissolve a civil partnership or legally separate, including the D8 application and financial order forms are all on this Govt website.

Child trust funds going unclaimed: A child trust fund was automatically set up for every child born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011. A payment of £250 (or £500 for families on low income) was invested and locked away until the child reached 18. Many of those who have now turned 18 have not claimed their money which will have grown in value. There is an online tool to find a child trust fund here.

LOCAL NEWS

EDAS supports, and people with addiction issues and/or experiencing mental distress throughout the UK, and can provide support to families, carers, and concerned others of those living with a substance misuse problem or a mental health issue. Their services have changed recently as explained in their letter below. The First Connect service is a counselling service, and they can also offer training.

Events

DCA Academy: This is a Digital Training Academy for Community Groups, Charities and Social Businesses; it combines pre-recorded talks with live online interactive workshops and networking. It contains a variety of free and premium training modules covering a wide range of different subjects, from short “top tips” to longer conversations with experts to recordings, all accessible at a time that suits you. On the morning of Weds 27 April there are several ‘taster events’ – planning for the future, drawing up a basic budget, etc. More information here.

CAN [BCP] events and training are listed here.

Reports, blogs, research etc

Local Govt Association warning on scams: The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales is warning residents to be aware of new scams and remind themselves of tell-tale signs that you may have been contacted by a scammer. Councils are now warning that criminals are cold calling residents asking for bank details in order for them to receive the Government’s £150 energy rebate. Read more here.

Energy suppliers customer service standards ‘plummet’: This is according to the latest Citizens Advice energy star rating table, released on 8 April. The star rating table shows energy suppliers’ customer service is the worst it’s been on average since 2017. It comes shortly after the rise in the energy price cap – which has seen most people’s bills increase by almost £700 a year. Read more here.

Independent Food Aid Network – letter to PM: We are deeply concerned about the scale of suffering that we are already witnessing as well as our capacity to prevent people from going hungry in the weeks and months to come. An emergency supply of food cannot resolve someone’s financial crisis and will only act as a temporary sticking plaster. Measures must be urgently introduced to decisively increase people’s incomes through the social security system, emergency cash first support and wage increases combined with job security. Read more here.

Equality and Human Rights Commission: The EHRC is requiring the Department for Work and Pensions to improve its treatment of disabled benefit claimants. This is in response to serious concerns about failures to meet the needs of its customers with mental health impairments and learning disabilities. Read the press release here.

Official error overpayments and write off requests: This Adviser Online article looks at write off requests for official error benefit overpayments – when they can be used and how to make one. Read more here.

Funding News

Stop Loan Sharks Community Fund: The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) has funding available for groups that want to raise awareness of the issues of illegal money lending. The money available has come from the proceeds of crime taken from convicted illegal money lenders.


Illegal Money Lenders, more commonly known as Loan Sharks, lend money without having the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority. They often give cash loans out without any paper work and want double the amount back or charge extortionate interest rates. When you struggle to make repayments they may use violence, threats and intimidation, to ensure you keep paying them.
The aim of this funding is to give groups the opportunity to raise awareness of the issue, in their community in a different way. Closing date 30 June 2022. FAQs and application form:

Western Powers Distribution Community Matter Fund: Grants of up to £10,000, for projects addressing loneliness and social isolation that fit within the following themes:

  • Delivering services to reduce loneliness and/or social isolation
  • Delivering services to improve mental health caused by loneliness and/or social isolation
  • Delivering educational activities focused on skills development and ongoing support to reduce loneliness and/or social isolation (e.g. digital skills, employability skills, life skills)
  • Innovative approaches to combat loneliness and/or social isolation and its associated impact on mental health.

Very tight deadline of 24th April 2022. Read more here.

Hall & Woodhouse Community Chest: Groups can apply for grants or fundraising support ranging from £300 and £3,000 to help achieve their aims. These grants or fundraising commitments could be used towards things such as equipment and furniture, training, transport, professional assistance, specific project resources or operational costs that will help your cause. Closing date 1 July. More info here.

Abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, formerly known as the Standard Life Foundation, is offering grants of between £10,000 and £200,000 for projects and activities that address specific inequalities, differences, and vulnerabilities to improve financial wellbeing, reduce the cost of living, and address issues related to spending and borrowing among low- and middle-income people across the United Kingdom. The focus is on three areas that influence financial wellbeing – income, spending and assets. Priority will be given to organisations working with young people.

Projects should aim to create a step-change in policy, practice, attitudes, or behaviour, including:

  • Policy work.
  • Campaigning.
  • Research.
  • Public attitudinal work.
  • Improving practice and design.
  • Evaluations of existing initiatives that have not been evaluated.

Closing date 3 June. Read more here.