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). 

During the Covid-19 outbreak we are 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 on her Citizens Advice Central Doset email:  mailto:caroline.buxton@centralca.org.uk

Jobs

Bridport Citizens Advice: Research and Campaigns/Data Officer. Based in Bridport when Covid-19 guidance permits otherwise working from home. The post involves travel within the Dorset Council area.

Salary:  £10,255. Hours per week:     15.   1 year fixed term contract.

The post holder will carry out research and campaigns work and data management on behalf of the Citizens Advice in Dorset consortium. This requires someone with high IT and data analysis skills who can support an evidence-based approach to Research and Campaigns work; the person also needs to be a good communicator with excellent presentation and report writing skills.

Closing date:   9.00 am Monday 23 November; Interview date:   26 November 2020. Read more:

Information updates

LOCKDOWN

For general information on the new restrictions from 5 November go to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november

Information on specific issues and support measures put in place:

The Furlough scheme has been extended, and the Job Support Scheme postponed. The most recent announcement – Thursday 5 November – says: The CJRS (also known as the furlough scheme) will remain open until 31 March 2021. For claim periods running to January 2021, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

More detailed gidance due shortly, but go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/extension-to-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme/extension-of-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

NB: The Job Retention Bonus (JRB) will not be paid in February 2021 and a retention incentive will be deployed at the appropriate time. The purpose of the JRB was to encourage employers to keep people in work until the end of January. However, as the CJRS is now being extended to 31 March 2021, the policy intent of the JRB no longer applies.

Local Restrictions Support Grant: business premises forced to close are able to claim grants worth up to £3,000. More on this and other support: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/furlough-scheme-extended-and-further-economic-support-announced

BENEFITS

Universal Credit – Minimum Income Floor: This is the income a self-employed person is considered to have, regardless of what they actually take from their self-employed work. The MIF was suspended due to Covid 19, so that UC is based on actual income; this has now been extended until the end of April 2021. Updated guidance for self-employed people is here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-what-to-do-if-youre-self-employed-and-getting-less-work-or-no-work

OTHER SUPPORT DURING LOCKDOWN

Mortgages: The Financial Conduct Authority is proposing to extend the availability of payment deferrals to support borrowers who are experiencing payment difficulties because of coronavirus. This will mean that:

  • those who have not yet had a payment deferral will be eligible for 2 payment deferrals of up to 6 months in total
  • those who currently have an initial payment deferral, will be eligible for another payment deferral of up to 3 months 
  • those who have resumed repayments after an initial payment deferral will be eligible for another payment deferral of up to 3 months 

Read more: https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-announces-further-proposals-support-mortgage-borrowers-impacted-coronavirus

For a summary of other information on finances – debts. bills savings – go to Money Saving Expert: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/03/uk-coronavirus-help-and-your-rights/

Tenants: No announcement yet as to whether there will be a further pause on evictions……see Citizens Advce blog below.

Events

BIG ENERGY SAVING WINTER Citizens Advice and others are taking part in the Big Energy Saving Winter campaign. Please share this information with your teams and service users. People can find out how to Check, Switch and Save on their energy bills by visiting our campaign website: https://bigenergysavingwinter.org.uk/

Reports

Citizens Advice blog: 3 missing protections for renters in England’s second lockdown. Unlike during the first lockdown, renters served an eviction notice don’t have the security of knowing they legally cannot be made to leave their homes whilst the lockdown is in place. Also, this time around, possession proceedings can still take place, even if bailiffs aren’t being used to enforce eviction warrants.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to take 3 steps to protect people with rent and council tax arrears as we enter a second lockdown:

1. Make the pause on face-to-face bailiff visits legally binding

2. Suspend possession proceedings for the duration of the second lockdown

3. Provide further hardship funding to local councils

Read more: https://wearecitizensadvice.org.uk/3-missing-protections-for-renters-in-englands-second-lockdown-366dadbc1a39

Independent Case Examiner for the DWP – Annual Report 2019/20. Interesting reading – this is from Joanna Wallace’s introduction, and will resonate with our own clients’ experiences:

Some of the complaints I see arise quite literally from a customer’s move to UC, including misadvice and misdirection clearly caused simply by DWP staff being unfamiliar with the provisions of UC and how it works. This has included customers being advised to claim UC to their detriment, when staying on tax credits would have been better for them, and other errors in transferring customers who have been on ESA to UC with the unintended loss of their work capability premiums.

Joanna also refers to overpayments arising from official errors, whereby people are effectively ‘in debt’ to DWP through no fault of their own. She also looks at other benefits, not just UC , and has made 14 systemic recommendations to the DWP. Read more: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-complaints-annual-report-by-the-independent-case-examiner-2019-to-2020/independent-case-examiner-for-the-department-for-work-and-pensions-annual-report-1-april-2019-to-31-march-2020

Welfare at a (Social) Distance: Salford University has an ongoing research project looking at accessing social security and employment support during the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath. There are various reports, blogs etc, read more: http://hub.salford.ac.uk/welfare-at-a-social-distance/ and for news: http://hub.salford.ac.uk/welfare-at-a-social-distance/latest-news/

Funding News

Albert Hunt Trust: Grant categories include help for the homeless, and health and social welfare. This latter includes physical and learning disability, physical and mental health, plus social challenge and deprivation.

They look to support organisations in this category with an annual income of below £250,000. Read more: https://www.alberthunttrust.org.uk/philosophy/

The Ireland Funds Great Britain has a community development strand, maximum grant size £10k – but you do need to submit a first stage Letter of Enquiry by 11pm on 6 November! Read more: https://irelandfunds.org/chapters/worldwide/great-britain/grants/