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

Citizens Advice Central Dorset: Citizens Advice Central Dorset delivers high quality advice and support to local residents, whatever their issue. There are currently three vacancies, with closing date of 17 February.

Debt Unit Supervisor: Bridport, Central Dorset and East and Purbeck Citizens Advices are setting up a county-wide Debt Unit to improve the provision and quality of debt advice across the area, by providing technical support and guidance to advisers, and improved coordination of debt advice. The Debt Unit Supervisor is a role which requires both an understanding of the debt advice process, and the ability to set up, develop and coordinate a new unit. 29 hours/week, £13.57per hour. Read more:

Sherborne Co-ordinator: This role will support our experienced and motivated Sherborne office team of volunteers responsible to our Advice Services Manager. We are looking for somebody to provide day to day support to the team to enable them to deliver a valued and consistent service to local residents. The duties will include organising the advice rota, running multi channel advice sessions and coordinating the training needs of the team. 21 hours/week, £14.56 per hour. Read more:

Dorchester – Advice Session Supervisor: The supervisor involves running the daily multi-channel advice session (telephone, email, webchat, virtual and/or physical face to face) and at times supervising a team of remote working volunteer advisers and ensure service delivery and quality standards are maintained. The successful candidate should have generalist advice experience in a Citizens Advice setting or similar and be able to demonstrate good experience of advice delivery and have the ability to supervise busy advice sessions in a supportive manner whilst maintaining
high standards. 7 hours/week (Friday), £13.57 per hour. Read more:

Community Action Network (BCP) – Wellbeing Collaborative: BCP Council are investing in a new Wellbeing Collaborative, led by CAN, to help people stay safe and well at home. CAN volunteers will find out what people need and connect them with local charities and community organisations able to offer essential support they probably didn’t know existed.

CAN are currently recruiting a number of roles for the new service – see below. For more information please
contact Emma Lee, Partnerships Manager by email

Information updates

January 2022 Fact Sheet:

Covid – changes

Testing: The advice for people who have a positive lateral flow device (LFD) test result has changed. They are no longer required to have a follow-up polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and they should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. People who have a positive LFD test result should only have a follow-up PCR test if:

  • they wish to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment
  • they have a health condition that means they may be suitable for new coronavirus (COVID-19) treatments
  • they are taking LFD tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks them to do so
  • they have a positive day 2 LFD test after arriving in England

Returning to work in health and social care after having Covid-19: The government has clarified its guidance on returning to work after a continued positive LFD test.

Changes to quarantine rules on arrival from overseas: From 4am on 7 January 2022, fully vaccinated workers returning to England from a country that is not on the red list will no longer have to quarantine whilst they wait for results of the day 2 test. If the test is positive the normal quarantine rules will then apply. Read more here.

Govt’s economic support packages: These include SSP recovery (see below) and new business grants.

BENEFITS

HMRC and Post Office card accounts: HMRC will stop paying tax credits and child benefit into Post Office card accounts (POCA) by 5 April 2022. Clients with a POCA will get a letter from HMRC and need to choose another method to get these payments. Clients who can’t get a bank account can opt to use Post Office PayOut. This involves a voucher sent by a text or mail that can be cashed at any Post Office. Department for Work and Pensions benefit payments will continue to be made to POCA until November 2022.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): Small employers can recover payments from the government. As a temporary measure, employers with fewer than 250 employees can claim back any SSP payments they make to employees for Covid-related absences occurring from 21 December 2021. This has no effect on an employee’s entitlement to SSP but might help to negotiate with an employer who appears reluctant to pay.

The new benefit year has begun: Benefit years run from the 1 January to the last day of December and affect the tax years that contributions need to be paid to qualify for contributory benefits.

HOUSING

Govt announcement on cladding / safety: The government has reset its approach to building safety with a new plan, announced here, to protect leaseholders and make wealthy developers and companies pay to fix the cladding crisis. It includes:

  • Opening up the next phase of the Building Safety Fund to drive forward taking dangerous cladding off high-rise buildings, prioritising the government’s £5.1 billion funding on the highest risk
  • Those at fault will be held properly to account: a new team is being established to pursue and expose companies at fault, making them fix the buildings they built and face commercial consequences if they refuse
  • Restoring common sense to building assessments: indemnifying building assessors from being sued; and withdrawing the old, misinterpreted government advice that prompted too many buildings being declared as unsafe; and
  • New protections for leaseholders living in their own flats: with no bills for fixing unsafe cladding and new statutory protections for leaseholders within the Building Safety Bill

Untidy tenancies: Problems can arise for people claiming the housing costs element of Universal Credit (UC) when a tenant or joint tenant no longer lives in the property. For a good overview of the issue read this Adviser Online article here.

TAX RETURNS

HMRC late filing penalty waived: HMRC has announced that anyone who can’t file their return by 31 January won’t receive a late filing penalty if they file online by 28 February. Clients who can’t pay their Self Assessment tax by 31 January won’t receive a late payment penalty if they pay their tax in full, or set up a Time to Pay arrangement by 1 April. Interest will be charged from 1 February so it’s still better to pay on time if possible. Read more here. See also guidance on the Low Income Tax Reform Group website.

IMMIGRATION

Citizens Advice BCP – Immigration Clinic: This is running on alternate Wednesdays, eg; 19 January, 2 and 16 February, 10am – 2pm at Bournemouth Library. More dates on the flyer:

LOCAL INFORMATION

Steps2Wellbeing: The Steps to Wellbeing Service in Dorset and Southampton offers a range of treatment choices for people experiencing symptoms of low mood/depression, anxiety or stress. We offer treatment for people, where symptoms of a Long Term Health condition contributes to their low mood/depression, anxiety or stress. We further support the community of Dorset and Southampton by offering Employment Advice to improve symptoms of poor mental health. The treatments we provide are evidence based using research and are available either by telephone, face-to-face, in groups or online to ensure accessibility.

For more information follow this link and the contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) is here.

Ridgewater Energy – LEAP: LEAP (Local Energy Advice Partnership) is a FREE home visit scheme to assist residents throughout Dorset with free energy advice, energy saving devices, along with access to other improvements like heating upgrades and insulation. Help can include checking if you are on the cheapest energy tariffs, installing free simple energy saving measures, and giving day-to-day energy efficiency hints and tips and ensure your heating system is set up to keep you warm and save money. More info and online referral form here.

Events

Family Mediation Week 17-21 January 2022: The event is organised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) to highlight the benefits of mediation for separating couples and families.There are a number of online webinars planned for professionals working with separated families and also for members of the public to join. Read more here.

Dorset Community Action – Networking session: Wednesday 19 January, 10.30am. Read more here.

Support Guaranteed: Getting energy markets right for vulnerable customers. On 25 January 2022, supported by Utilita, NEA (national Energy Action) will bring together supporters and stakeholders for a one-day Zoom event to discuss how to get retail markets right for vulnerable customers. Leading speakers on retail markets will be invited from across policy and practice to share their views and experiences. This event is free to attend. More information here.

Resolution Foundation – ‘Beyond Beveridge’: Wednesday 19 January, 9.30 – 10.45. Live interactive webinar – register to receive access link. The modern welfare state is approaching its 75th anniversary, but continual reforms and wider economic change mean that it bears little resemblance to the system first envisaged by William Beveridge. This discussion will focus on questions such as: What changes has the welfare state seen in recent decades? How strong is our basic safety net? What protection exists for those temporarily falling on hard times?

Research, reports, etc

Judiciary – Prevention of Future Deaths report from a Kent Coroner: Terence Talbot, who had Bipolar Affective Disorder, was being detained under the Mental Health Act when he had a rare reaction to the medication he was being prescribed. This left him very vulnerable to infection. However, the DWP refused to let Mr Talbot make a claim for benefits electronically, instead insisting he had to leave hospital to make the claim in person. Mr Talbot subsequently died in hospital. In her report, the Coroner says that health professionals had never experienced such an ill patient being forced to make a claim in person before.

Govt report on disabled people’s experience of the benefits system still not published: Despite being asked by the Work & Pensions Committee in August and September 2021 to share the report’s findings, Dr Therese Coffey has repeatedly refused. She denied responsibility for publishing the report in front of the Work & Pensions Committee at the beginning of December, telling them that she had not personally cleared the DWP letter telling disabled people that their views would be shared in a report and therefore had no requirement to do so. The refusal has been challenged by the Work and Pensions Committee who have now said that they will use parliamentary powers to acquire and publish the report if the government stands by their decision not to share their findings after 11th January. Here’s the September request. Watch this space!

Bereavement Support Payments: The Govt has published qualitative reports into the Bereavement Support Payment system, finding that not enough information is available, knowledge of BSP before bereavement was low and there was no clear, formal route for finding out more about it. Read more here.

Cost of Living crisis: Citizens Advice have produced 2 blogs this week on the problems with utility costs. Forced to choose between heating or eating also has a link to a Policy Briefing. Energy bills are skyrocketing suggests short term and medium term actions the Govt should take.

Resolution Foundation analysis: Labour Market Outlook Q4 2021/Wages and the cost of living in 2022. This note focuses on the likely evolution of the pressure on living standards that households are already facing. Far from fading, this is likely to build with further price rises outstripping pay growth, and real wages set to be no higher at the end of 2022 than they were at the start. The spring looks particularly difficult, with April bringing a broad-based cost of living catastrophe affecting the vast majority of households: soaring energy bills and significant tax rises will see an annual income hit to the typical household of over £1,000. Read more here.

Funding News

The Screwfix Foundation, a registered charity, is currently accepting applications from registered charities and not-for-profit organisations (both national and local) to be considered at the Trustees meeting in March 2022 . Capital grants of up to £5,000 are available to fix, repair, maintain and improve properties and community facilities specifically for those in need (by reason of financial hardship, sickness, disability or other disadvantage or distress) in the UK.

In 2022, the Trustees will review applications in March, June, September and December. The cut-off date for applications is the 10th of the month prior to the trustee meeting. The first deadline for applications is 10 February 2022. Read more here.

The Rise Fund offers two-year grants of up to £40,000 to Black and minoritised-led women’s and girls’ organisations in the UK which have been established for three years or more, and which have an average income of less than £100,000 per year. The current deadline has been extended to 31 January 2022. Read more here.

Arts Council England – Let’s Create Jubilee Fund: The fund is open to voluntary and community organisations with charitable aims and working towards a common goal which does not have to be based solely around arts and culture. Applicant organisations must be local to Dorset and have been established for at least 12 months.

The Let’s Create Jubilee Fund will support voluntary and community groups to develop new creative and cultural activities as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022. The fund has been created by Arts Council England (ACE) with funds from the National Lottery. Art and culture should be at the heart of your project. Grants from £750 to £10,000 are available.

The project can begin from 1st April so that preparation can take place such as rehearsals etc. Public-facing activity should take place in June 2022. The project end date can be in August to include any evaluation and final payments. Closing date 28 February 2022.

Locally this fund is being administered by Dorset Community Foundation – read more here.