Welcome to the Advice Partnership E News Bulletin

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).  As we have got to April, this edition is Number 1 of the new financial year!

During the Covid-19 outreach we will be 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:  mailto:contact@caidorset.org.uk 

Covid-19 Information updates

BENEFITS:

‘Touchbase’ is the DWP’s newsletter on benefit issues and is producing regular updates; you can sign up to receive them. The recent one clarified:

  • Claim new style ESA by phone if you are NOT on Universal Credit; if you are on UC, talk to work coach / put note on Journal.
  • Carer’s easements: Unpaid carers will be able to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets Coronavirus or if they have to isolate because of it. Under normal rules there are restrictions on breaks in care, but these have been lifted.

Link to the recent editions: http://news.dwp.gov.uk/dwplz/lz.aspx?p1=M7PDUxMTc1OFMxMTE0OjMxQjYwRUMxQzhEMUM0RUFDRDNERDZBQ0E1MTkwRTQ4-&CC=&p=0

Temporary pause to recovery of benefit overpayments for 3 months:

Deductions for the recovery of Universal Credit and legacy benefit overpayments, Social Fund loans and Tax Credit debts will be paused. The majority of deductions will be suspended automatically, however if your client currently makes repayments through a Bank Standing Order, Bank Giro Credit or through online banking, they need to contact their bank to cancel your arrangement. NB: The recovery of advances by deduction from Universal Credit payments will continue. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/recovery-of-benefit-overpayment-suspended

Other Benefit updates:

  • No need to have registered birth to claim Child benefit: Even though General Register Offices remain closed for now, parents can still claim Child Benefit without having to register their child’s birth first to ensure that they do not miss out. First time parents will need to fill in Child Benefit claim form CH2 and send it to the Child Benefit Office. If they haven’t registered the birth because of COVID-19, they should add a note with their claim to let them know. If they already claim Child Benefit, they can complete the form or add their new-born’s details over the phone on 0300 200 3100. They will need their National Insurance number or Child Benefit number.
  • Working Tax Credit: If hours reduce, or work stops, WTC can continue for a ‘temporary period’ of 8 weeks (this may be extended). However if people decide they’ll have to claim UC then they will NOT go back onto Tax Credits in the future. Don’t forget someone on WTC might become eligible for Council Tax Support/Reduction, and a claim for this does not trigger a UC claim…..
  • Self-employed and UC: calculation will be based on actual income NOT the ‘minimum income floor’.
  • UC Conditionality: useful FAQs from the Public Law Project https://claimantcommitments.org.uk/covid-19/

Policy in Practice ran a very comprehensive webinar on 8 April and another is planned for 22 April. See http://policyinpractice.co.uk/events/

EMPLOYMENT:

At Citizens Advice we are seeing a surge of employment-related enquiries: people being dismissed rather than furloughed (especially if they haven’t been employed for very long), people’s contracts being changed without consultation etc. Whilst we appreciate it is a difficult time for many employers, this is causing people a lot of additional anxiety.

‘Coronavirus – if your employer has told you not to work’ is a popular search on the Citizens Advice website – https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/coronavirus-if-your-employer-has-told-you-not-to-work/ – and a good overveiw of emplyment information (general rights and issues relating to coronavirus) is on the ACAS website for example: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/good-practice-steps-for-employers

Useful information is also on the Leigh Day website (bear in mind this is a commercial organisation): https://www.leighday.co.uk/Employment-discrimination/Employment-law/COVID-19

Those with ‘no recourse to public funds’ can benefit form the Job Retention Scheme.

UTILITIES

Information for people who can’t afford to top up their prepayment meters: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-help-paying-your-bills/you-cant-afford-to-top-up-your-prepayment-meter/

Wessex Water: Coronavirus update for customers is here https://www.wessexwater.co.uk/coronavirus and don’t forget their Partnerhub: http://partnerhub.wessexwater.co.uk/COVID-19/

COURTS & TRIBUNALS

HM Courts & Tribunal service is focusing on priority cases, changing working practices and introducing new procedures to minimise risks to the judiciary, staff and all those who use our courts and tribunals. For more information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-courts-and-tribunals-planning-and-preparation

FAQs on Employment Tribunals: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/FAQ-final-edition-date-03-April-2020.pdf

OTHER SUPPORT

Dealing with bereavement and grief: Bereaved people may have to deal with increased trauma, and may be cut off from some of their usual support networks. Those who are already struggling with bereavement, or whose relatives or friends die through other causes will also be affected. Read more on the CRUSE website:https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/coronavirus-dealing-bereavement-and-grief

Coronavirus business support grant funding: Information and eligibility checker:

Dorset: https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/emergencies-severe-weather/emergencies/coronavirus/business-and-employers/coronavirus-business-support-grant-funding.aspx

BCP: https://www.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/News/News-Features/COVID19/Employers-Employees-and-Businesses/Financial-Support.aspx

#everydaycounts campaign set up by NVVO and others to persuade the government to provide emergency funding that will keep charities alive and enable them to continue to serve their beneficiaries and communities. The campaign is asking charities to share their stories, so the government can understand how essential it is to invest in the sector and prevent its collapse.

Other Local Info

Dorset Community Action (DCA): Are continuing to provide advice and support to community groups/organisations, charities and social enterprises. DCA have set up a Helpline which is open between 11am-4pm Monday to Friday to answer questions you may have regarding Coronavirus and your organisation. Phone: 01202 847609

Or visit www.dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk for regular updates.

Dorset Council: For the latest information from Dorset Council, including information on services and changes to services please visit Dorset Council Covid 19 latest advice or follow Dorset Council on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Dorset Community Response #Dorsettogether Public sector partners and charities across Dorset are working together to respond to the impact of Covid-19. For information on volunteering, or if you, or someone you know needs help, or benefits advice from the CAB or food bank information, please see Dorset Community Response.

BCP Community Response: https://www.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/News/News-Features/COVID19/Find-help-or-help-your-community/How-to-get-help/I-need-help-support-or-advice.aspx

Reports and Research

No work, no pay – supporting unemployed people through coronavirus: This Resolution Fund report looks at the current labour market recession, commends the government for some actions taken and encourages them to: raise awareness of UC…..[and] go further in ensuring that more families can claim UC by removing the capital rules ……..[and] to ensure payments are as swift as possible, the Government should make advance payments of UC widely available and suspend the repayment of these advances for six months for all new claimants to encourage their take up. Read more: https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/no-work-no-pay/

Unequal impact: Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the impact on people with protected characteristics Inquiry. The Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry about the different and disproportionate impact that the coronavirus and measures to tackle it is having on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act.  For more information and to give some feedback, visit parliament committee call for evidence, all feedback must be submitted by 30 April. Please consider completing this inquiry, as it important that they hear experiences from lots of different people and groups.

Funding

Dorset Community Foundation (DCF):DCF has launched a new fund to support voluntary and community organisations that are helping vulnerable people impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

Aim of the Fund: to effectively support local and voluntary and community organisations that are helping vulnerable people impacted by the Covid-19 crisis: easing the immediate difficulties communities are facing and to support their recovery over the coming weeks and months.

What could be funded: The fund can support any and all service delivery costs including volunteer expenses, perishable and non-perishable goods, and capital equipment such as remote working equipment and protective equipment. Contributions to core organisational costs may also be considered. Retrospective payments MAY be made to cover costs incurred in urgent response to the cris

Organisations can apply for up to £5000, for more information including funding criteria, eligibility and application forms, visit DCF – Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund. There are no closing dates for applications.

Princes Countryside Fund – Rural Response Emergency Grants Programme to support not-for-profit organisations if they are:

  • Providing emergency relief to vulnerable or isolated individuals.
  • Providing support to farmers and farm businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • Assisting rural or farming communities to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic.

DEADLINE 15 April! Grants of up to £2,500, for new projects and initiatives that are providing emergency relief to vulnerable or isolated individuals in rural or farming communities across the UK. The Fund will assist projects that support farm businesses or other rural business and rural communities to cope with the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19). This many include but is not limited to:

  • Fuel costs for grocery and prescription delivery from rural community shops, pubs, and hubs.
  • Costs associated with emergency support by farm and agricultural support groups.
  • Rural foodbanks and food delivery.

The funding is intended to cover additional costs generated as a result of the response to the coronavirus. Grants could be used for core costs when current income has been lost as a result of the coronavirus, or additional wage costs, or petrol/delivery costs, etc. Read more https://www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk/grant-giving-programme/grant-programme

News from the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF)\;

  • It plans to continue to deliver its services to applicants, grant holders and communities across the UK as normally as it can.
  • The current priority is to keep money flowing to support people, communities and the organisations.
  • It has started to shift application deadlines for some of its funds that were due to close soon.

It has also announced the following decisions:

  • Firstly, all the funding decisions made for the next six months (up to £300,000 million of National Lottery funding) will be devoted to addressing the current crisis.
  • In addition, NLCF will accelerate the cash part of this funding as much as it can, so that it can get money to where it needs to be. This is not new money, but it will be faster money.