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: Co-ordinator for our Sherborne office. 21 hours per week, £14.56 per hour (£15,900 per annum): 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. Read more below:

Information update

MARCH FACT SHEET

UKRAINE

Government response to the crisis – here.

UK Visa support for Ukrainian nationals – here. [Rules are subject to change but assume Govt updates will appear on this link….]

Red Cross help for Ukrainian Nationals – here.

Ukraine – what you can do to help – here.

Ukraine Advice project UK: This is a group of volunteer legal professionals with immigration and asylum expertise who are providing a free service to connect Ukrainian citizens (and others fleeing Ukraine) who are in need of free legal advice on UK immigration, visas and asylum with qualified and regulated lawyers. More info here.

COVID / ‘Cost of Living’ issues

Latest Government information on Covid – here.

Vaccination requirements: Regulations making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment in health and social care will be revoked on Tuesday 15 March, and the legal requirement for health and social care staff to be double jabbed from 1 April will be removed. Read the press release here.

Government support with cost of living and energy bills etc, includes:

  • A £200 discount on their energy bill this Autumn for domestic electricity customers in Great Britain. This will be paid back automatically over the next 5 years.
  • A £150 non-repayable Council Tax Rebate payment for all households that are liable for Council Tax in Bands A-D in England. A repayment will be made to eligible households, and does not need to be repaid. Guidance for Local Authorities on this scheme is here.
  • £144 million of discretionary funding for Local Authorities to support households who need support but are not eligible for the Council Tax Rebate

Government factsheets here.

BENEFITS

Restart Scheme: Changes to regs from 14 March mean that the DWP can now require income-based JSA claimants in long-term unemployment to attend and participate in Restart, and face a low level sanction for failure to attend without good reason. Here’s general information on the scheme.

HMRC benefits – Post Office Card Account (POCA) closures: Following a temporary HMRC extension to POCA users, the department has issued a reminder to the 7,500 HMRC benefit claimants who have yet to give new banking details. Claimants have until 5 April to give new account details or their payments will be stopped until HMRC receives the new details. Read the Govt’s press release here. The Money Helper website, provided by the Money Advice and Pensions Service, offers information and advice about how to choose the right current account and how to open an account, here, and also on fee-free basic bank accounts here. NB: DWP payments can still be paid into a POCA until November.

OTHER

Energy information: The Energy Saving Trust has several blogs on home energy efficiency measures such as future-proofing your home against rising energy costs: here. Adviser online has three new articles on dealing with gas and electricity arrears here.

Contracts – unfair terms: Contracts can be challenged if a term means there is a significant imbalance between the parties. In a recent example a care home demanded a full month’s payment even through the resident had died early on in the month. Given that the resident had probably signed the agreement without taking independent advice, and that the rules about fees due upon death were not clearly stated (despite this being quite a likely scenario….) relatives were able to challenge the bill successfully (though they were supported in this via a free legal help scheme through their employer – always worth checking if people can access schemes like this). More on unfair contract terms from Which?

Online selling methods and scams – ‘The Online Rip-off Tip-off’ Campaign: The Competitions and Market Authority has launched this campaign and their webpage has links to resources which are designed to help consumers spot and avoid misleading online practices that could result in them being ripped off. Retailer tactics include fake reviews, time pressured claims and dressed up deals.

New divorce procedure: The new ‘no fault divorce’ introduced by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is due to come into effect on 6 April 2022. HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has now announced the cut off dates for divorces under the existing system: an online application must be submitted by 4pm on 31 March, or a paper application received by the court by 4pm on 31 March. It will be possible to apply for a divorce under the new law from 6 April via online or paper application. Under the new law a divorce will take a minimum of 26 weeks to complete, but it will not be necessary to attribute blame leading to the breakdown of the marriage and joint applications can be made. More information here. There is also a MoJ information pack here.

Events

Community Resilience Week 7 -11 March 2022: The Dorset Local Resilience Forum is hosting a number of on-line events this week on subjects such as: Flooding and the Flood Warden scheme in Dorset, climate change, avoiding scams, cyber security, volunteering in the community, counter-terrorism, Community Resilience and Emergency Planning, Fire Safety and Safe & Well advice. Find out more here.

International Women’s day: Although this was on Tuesday, information and resources are on their website here.

Local CVS events: Dorset Community Action – Networking event, Weds 16 March, more details here. Community Action Network (CAN – BCP) events are here.

Dorset Prejudice Free conference – #NoPlaceForHate: Weds 23 March 10 – 1, Hamworthy Club, Canford Magna. This event will be a celebration of being able to meet in person again and will provide the opportunity for attendees to listen to PFD representatives talk about the organisation’s achievements over the past 18 months. Members of the community will also be encouraged to share their views and experiences. There will be presentations by local speakers and workshops followed by a networking lunch. Book here.

Resolution Foundation: Catch 2022 – What does the end of a global pandemic and the start of a European conflict mean for Britain’s economic outlook? This webinar on 14 March, 9.30 – 10.45 will have a panel of speakers considering : How strong will the UK’s economic recovery be, and when will it approach a new ‘normal’? What impact will the war in Ukraine have on the UK, European and Global economic outlook? And what does all this mean for the public, and household finances? More info on this and other events on the RF events page here.

Policy in Practice webinar – How low income families can benefit from social tariffs: Wednesday 30 March, 10.30 to 11.45. Millions of families under pressure from the rising cost of living are missing out on savings on their utility and broadband bills that could make a big difference. Research shows that savings of up to £144 a year for broadband alone are being left on the table. This is money that can help people to stay connected, an essential part of the way we live, work and learn. Find out more at this webinar – register here.

LGBT+ Voices Dorset Forum: The Forum want to understand if Dorset is a safe place to be if you’re LGBT+. This will be a 90-minute online workshop to “explore your experiences….your opportunity to have your say, make a difference and inform future conversations and a county-wide position on improving safety and access to community spaces”. They have commitment from councils, the police, health services and other local organisations to take forward learning and work with the Forum to help make Dorset a more welcoming county. 28th April 10:30am-12:30pm; register here.

Reports, Research, Blogs, Consultations etc

Our Dorset Digital: Dorset CCG want to better understand people’s digital experiences and preferences, to improve digital health tools and processes. They say: Digital is part of our everyday, even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic. From ordering our shopping, checking our bank account to helping us manage our health and wellbeing. We want to improve healthcare, mental health and wellbeing for everyone living in Dorset and digital healthcare services can help us do this and help keep you well. Complete the survey – deadline 23 March.

Rethink Mental Illness – “We’re just numbers to them”: The DWP’s failure to investigate death and serious harm, highlights the experiences of the people being desperately failed by the welfare system. Rethink conducted a survey to find out more about the harm people have experienced as a result of their interactions with the benefits system, and how the DWP responded. This report is based on the responses to that survey and detailed interviews with eight survey respondents. Read more here.

Pushed to the edge – poverty, foodbanks and mental health: A new report exploring the impact of poverty and food bank use on people’s mental health. Written by Tom Pollard and co-produced with the Independent Food Aid Network and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Pushed to the Edge: poverty, food banks and mental health is based on interviews conducted with people needing to use food banks in November and December 2021. Read more here.

Policy in Practice blog – How better use of Universal Credit can tackle the cost of living crisis: This blog look at the government’s case for uprating benefits by less than inflation and argues that increased benefit support is needed to create a simple and coherent social security system. Read more here.

Housing Ombudsman report into complaints handling: This is the first annual review of complaints, where they found 66% of investigations into complaint handling were upheld. Poor complaint handling can considerably affect the trust residents have in their landlords to put things right, says the review and sets out the challenges for the social housing sector to overcome. Read more here.

Public Law Project Research: Have you provided support or advice to someone who has been sanctioned by the DWP? If so Public Law Project would really like to hear from you. They are researching the barriers to challenging benefit sanction decisions by mandatory reconsideration and appeal. The findings will be used to try to improve access to justice for sanctioned claimants. As part of this they are keen to speak to:

  • Benefit claimants who have been sanctioned by DWP (either recently or in the past)
  • Advisors and other individuals who have experience of providing advice or other support to sanctioned claimants.

Taking part would involve a one-off phone or video call to speak about your experience of the sanctions regime. If you can help, please fill in the short form here, or drop a line to Caroline Selman, 020 7843 1268.

Editors’s note: I am aware that this week’s edition is somewhat weighted towards bad news: Ukraine, cost of living, people with mental health’s experiences…..if you haven’t come across it before, Positive News does focus on what they call ‘constructive journalism’ (= good news stories….).

Funding News

People’s Health Trust – Active Communities: New funding is available for local groups in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, opening for applications on Wednesday 9th March and closing at 1pm on Wednesday 6th April.

Active Communities is a funding programme for community groups and not-for-profit organisations, with an income of less than £350,000 a year, or an average of £350,000 over two years. Projects could be almost anything that encourages strong connections between people, and that help people to make their communities or neighbourhoods even better places to grow, live, work and age. Read more here.

Rural Communities Support Programme: Funding is available to constituted not-for-profit organisations in the UK for projects which are working to create resilient and sustainable rural communities. The funding programme is designed to support community-led projects that are pursuing innovative and strategic solutions to the challenges facing their rural area and which will improve the long-term viability and resilience of their community. Successful projects will achieve one or more of the following:

  • Support people to resolve existing and emerging community issues, circumstances, and priorities in their locality.
  • Build rural community resilience.
  • Develop innovative and replicable projects.
  • Enable leadership and community planning.
  • Improve the economic or social resilience of a rural community.
  • Reduce isolation for people living in rural areas through improving service provision.
  • Create a self-sufficient rural community fit for the future.
  • Projects must also be able to demonstrate community demand and support.

Grants of up to £25k over two years are available; groups must have an annual income of under £500k. Deadline 12 April 2022. Read more here.

Homelessness funding: The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has announced an £8 million fund over the next three years to support the work of the voluntary and community sector in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. The Programme is divided into four individually biddable lots, each with a different objective and its own individual budget per annum:

Lot 1 – Increase the capacity and capability of the sector to prevent and relieve rough sleeping and homelessness (£850,000 to £1.2 million).
Lot 2 – Deliver a specific, specialist advice service to help frontline workers resolve individual cases (£750,000 to £950,000).
Lot 3 – Enable stronger local strategic partnerships (£450,000 to £600,000).
Lot 4 – Developing the faith and community sector (£175,000 to £225,000).

Applications are accepted from voluntary and community sector organisations in England with a proven track record of providing specialist delivery in the field of homelessness and working collaboratively across sectors. Consortium bids are also encouraged. Bids will be considered for single or multiple lots.

The deadline to apply is 1 April 2022. Read more here.

Mental Health support for young people: In partnership with Julia and Hans Rausing, the UK Youth Fund has launched the new £8.4 million Thriving Minds programme. Established as a direct response to the growing youth mental health crisis in the UK, funding will support UK-based charities and not-for-profit organisations with an annual turnover of less than £500,000 to improve mental health support for young people aged 8 to 25 in their communities, whilst ensuring organisations have the resources needed to properly engage with the Thriving Minds programme and implement and instigate learnings to improve their mental health provision.

Unrestricted grants of between £15,000 and £50,000 per year for up to three years are available for projects that demonstrate commitment to the following key outcomes:

  • Improved community support for young people experiencing mental health problems and improved preventative provision to support young people before they reach crisis point.
  • Improved best practices on ways to improve youth workers’ mental health literacy.
  • Embedding sustainable youth work practises in the youth sector and mental health sector.

Deadline 20 March 2022. Read more here.