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

STARS Dorset (Sexual Trauma and Recovery Service): STARS has been awarded additional funding to provide a dedicated Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) to engage and support anyone affected by sexual abuse, focusing on reaching and supporting older people throughout Dorset. The post is initially offered on a Fixed Term Contract for 2 years.

The successful candidate will provide practical and emotional support to clients aged 18 yrs. and above who have experienced rape, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation at any time during their life. Salary £21 – 23k depending on experience. Read more:

Information updates

COVID RELATED UPDATES

Face masks: from 27 January there is no requirement to wear these anywhere. However, the Government suggests that you continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.

Self-isolation reduced to 5 days post infection: The government has amended its guidance for those testing positive for Covid-19 in England. Self-isolation starts on the first day of symptoms (or date of positive test if asymptomatic) but can now end on day 6 if you have 2 negative LFD tests on days 5 and 6. This also applies to those returning from international travel and to staff working in care settings, but please note that self-isolation for staff who are contacts has not changed. There is also a useful flow chart on self isolation in the guidance here at 5.2. Guidance for employers is here. More on the Test and Trace Support Payment here.

Risk Assessment for pregnant employees: Pregnant women are now in the same priority group (6) as adults under 65 with long term health conditions. Employers should conduct risk assessments as soon as they are informed of pregnancy, and review that assessment at 26 weeks of pregnancy, in recognition of the increased risk after that point. Read more here.

Dorset Public Health’s Covid update notes that whist the current trends in infection rates are positive ,we should ‘continue to exercise caution’. More on the local situation and guidance here.

EMPLOYMENT

Recovery of training costs from wages: It is becoming increasingly common for workers to seek advice in cases where employers have made deductions from their pay in connection with their training costs. This is typically when employment has ended. Many of these workers are low paid or in otherwise precarious employment situations, with the sums in question being substantial ones in many cases. This article considers the circumstances in which employers can lawfully make deductions from a worker’s pay for such costs, or might be entitled to recover training costs through other routes, and looks at the options for challenge available to workers in these circumstances……

BENEFITS

DWP – Way to Work: According to the DWP press release here, this is about supporting people back into work quicker. What claimants on UC (and new style JSA) need to be aware of is if people are not able to find work in their previous occupation or sector, they are expected to look for work in another sector and this will be part of their requirements for receiving their benefit payment…….for the small minority who do not engage, the sanctions regime will operate as usual. This is a significant change to the claimant commitment, as previously people could restrict their job search to their own occupation for 13 weeks. Reporting of this in the media uses words like ‘crackdown’……

PIP assessments – recording: Everyone can ask to have their PIP assessment recorded, whether it is a telephone or face-to-face assessment. Face-to-face claimants must sign a consent form in which they agree to not use the audio recording for unlawful purposes. Telephone clients have to give a verbal agreement. If you use a recording for your own information, share it with an advisor or use it as part of an appeal, this is all entirely lawful. The Govt guidance is here, section 1.6.58.

IMMIGRATION

Skilled Worker Visas: Changes to the shortage occupation list will allow health and social care workers to apply for a Skilled Worker visa. From 15 February 2022 employers (but not private households) will be able to sponsor care workers, home carers and nursing home support workers so long as they pay at least £20,480 and £10.10 per hour. Unlike other occupations on the Skilled Worker route, there is no requirement for a particular level of qualification.

The visa can last for up to 5 years and can be extended. After 5 years it will be possible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. This will also mean that asylum seekers who get permission to work may be able to work in this sector now that those roles are on the SOL. Skilled worker Visa information is here.

OTHER

Energy: Together Energy has ceased trading and its customers are being transferred to British Gas. You can check who’s taken over your energy supply when companies have gone bust on the Ofgem website.

TV Licensing: The Fee will remain at £159 until 2024. Free TV licences for all over-75s, are no longer available – this ended on 31st July 2020. However, customers who are over 75 and receive Pension Credit, or live with a partner who receives Pension Credit, can claim a free TV licence – more info on the website. Also if your client, or someone they live with is blind (severely sight impaired), regardless of their age, and can provide the appropriate evidence, they are eligible to apply for a 50% reduction in the cost of their TV licence – information here.

Customers who have had difficulty paying are eligible to join the Simple Payment Plan if they:

  • have been visited by a TV Licensing Enquiry Officer
  • have previously held a licence that was cancelled within the last six months because of missed payments
  • are experiencing financial difficulties and are referred by a not-for-profit money advice organisation.

There is a useful video on TV Licensing on YouTube.

Travel – the ATOL Scheme: ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) was set up in 1973 and is the financial protection scheme for package holidays that include a flight and some flight-only bookings — a flight that is not part of a package. This adviser online article explains what the ATOL scheme is — what it covers, how it protects consumers and what can be done when a booking isn’t ATOL protected.

LOCAL NEWS

Citizens Advice Energy Bus! Worried about your heating costs? Confused about the energy price cap? Looking for information after your supplier went bust? Come along and speak to our Energy Specialists who can answer your questions and provide free energy tips and advice.

Friday 28th January – Swanage Co-op Car Park 10am – 3pm
Wednesday 9th Feb, Outside Allendale House, Wimborne, 10am – 3pm

The bus will also be visiting Wareham – watch this space for the date!

LEAP Referrals: 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. Eligibility includes being on a low income, or on certain benefits, or with health issues. The current scheme ends on on 31 march. Read more information at Ridgewater Energy, or contact 01202 612726.

Dorset Food Banks: Help and Kindness has a very comprehensive list of Dorset food banks, with info on opening times etc, on their website here.

Events

Holocaust Memorial Day – Thursday 27 January: There is a ceremony at 7pm and at 8pm people are encouraged to join in with Light the Darkness, by lighting candles and safely putting them in their windows to remember those who were murdered for who they were, and to stand against prejudice and hatred today. Read more here. Locally to commemorate the event this year, Dorchester Town Council and the South West Dorset Multicultural Network, with the support of Dorset Council, have been working with the local community, Kushti Bok, and several Dorset schools to create a short film made by Pageant Productions, to reflect on this year’s theme ‘One Day’. View this film on the Kushti Bok website here.

LGBTQ+ Month – February: The overall aim of LGBT+ History month is to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public. More information and resources are here.

Policy in Practice webinar recording. Click here to access the recording and slides from a webinar on 26 January on Budgeting support: Best practice ways to help low-income households.

Reports, Research etc

Joseph Rowntree Foundation – UK Poverty 2022 – the essential guide to understanding poverty in the UK: What is the picture of poverty at the start of 2022, coming up to two years after a global pandemic struck? To an extent the picture is unclear: we don’t yet have official poverty data covering the pandemic period, and we know that the quality
of the very surveys we rely on for this information were affected by the onset of the pandemic. But many sources make it clear that while some groups have been well supported and face better prospects as we enter 2022, others face deep and persistent poverty. Read more here.

Covid Realities: documenting life on a low income during the pandemic: Families living on a low income are profoundly disadvantaged and Covid-19 has only made this worse. This report summarises the evidence from the multiple strands of the Covid Realities research programme, which documented the everyday experiences of families with children living on a low income during the pandemic across the UK.

Citizens Advice – ‘Am I eligible?’: Citizens Advice research has shown that around 3 million households are facing a cost of living crisis this winter, unable to afford basics like food or heating. The welfare safety net is there to support all of us when we are struggling to make ends meet. So to help hard up households, Citizens Advice’s experts answered the top 5 most commonly searched for benefits eligibility questions on the charity’s website last year. Read more in this press release here.

Funding News

Vinci UK is supporting small and medium-sized community and non-profit organisations in the UK with grants to tackle social exclusion in four key areas of action:

  • Access to employment: Supporting those excluded from the job market and helping people adapt to the world of work. Offering basic training and guidance to enable individuals with no qualifications to enter the world of work.
  • Insertion through housing: Enabling access to housing for the most underprivileged individuals to provide them with more stability and security.
  • Inclusive mobility: Providing people with easier admission to secure employment, healthcare and education by improving the mobility of those without access to means of transportation.
  • Building better communities: Strengthening social links and fighting isolation in underprivileged neighbourhoods. Initiatives aimed at conveying citizenship values to young people.

The total cost of projects should not exceed £100,000. Closing date 22 March. Read more here.

BCP Council Neighbourhood portion fund: BCP Council are inviting residents, businesses and community groups to submit bids for local projects which will improve, benefit and shape the development of their community for the future. Bids for projects can range from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands of pounds where funds are available. Deadline is 2.00pm on 31st January. Projects can include:

  • environmental improvements, e.g. tree planting, open space improvements
  • public art
  • street furniture
  • equipment for a community group
  • provision of more facilities for the community
  • projects that are beneficial to a local area
  • projects that contribute to broad community benefit.

Read more here.