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). 

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

Jobs

Citizens Advice Central Dorset:

Help to Claim adviser: The adviser will help people make their initial claim for Universal Credit up to receipt of first payment.

Hours: 12.5 Hours per week Salary: £8,645 actual per annum (£25,589 FTE) Location: Remote / Dorchester

Fixed Term: 31st March 2022
Start Date: 1st July 2021

GP Surgery Caseworker (Cranborne): NB: This vacancy is open to Citizens Advice Staff and Volunteers only. We require an experienced caseworker to join our team. This role is based at The Cranborne Practice in their Cranborne and Verwood surgeries.

Hours: 6 Hours per week (Friday) Salary: £4150 (actual per annum)
Location: The Cranborne Practice, Cranborne and Verwood
Term: Permanent Contract
Start Date: Immediate Start

For information on both posts go the CACD website.

Please note: These posts are being re-advertised. If a suitable applicant applies an immediate interview may be given and therefore we reserved the right to close this vacancy as soon as it has been filled.

Agency Updates

Over the next month we will be updating agency details on the Advice Dorset Partnership website. If your agency is listed, please check the details and advise us of any changes. Here is one we are already aware of:

East Dorset and Purbeck Citizens Advice formally merged on 1st April 2021. The new organisation name is Citizens Advice in East Dorset and Purbeck. Their new website can be viewed here and you can follow them on social media – Facebook and Twitter @CitAdviceEDP

Information updates

COVID19 UPDATES

University students can return to campus on 17 May 2021: This will include a return to face-to-face teaching. Upon return all students and staff are encouraged to take 3 supervised tests, 3 and 5 days apart at sites on campus. After this, students will have access to free lateral flow tests. Read more here.

International travel restrictions: India has been added to the Government’s Red List, due to a surge of Covid19 cases. Read more here.

Furlough [CJRS]: For useful guidance as we go into the next stages of the scheme, go to the ACAS website. Remember that failure to pay furlough wages correctly has the same implications as standard unauthorised deductions from wages – see the Citizens Advice information here. [See also the Personnel Today survey under research & Reports below].

For those who are clinically extremely vulnerable shielding is now paused. The latest HMRC guidance says that employers can furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus. It’s up to employers to decide if they will furlough these employees, and the employer does not need to be facing a wider reduction in demand or be closed to be eligible to claim for these employees. The guidance adds “these employees remain eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme even whilst shielding guidance is not in place.” Read the guidance for employers here.

Tax credits – one-off £500 payment: A reminder that the £500 payment will be disregarded as income for tax credits, and is also disregarded for housing benefit and those who subsequently claim Universal Credit (UC). More detail on the revenuebenefits website.

Homelessness Code of Guidance: Section 8.44 ha been amended to make it clear when someone with underlying health conditions should be considered in priority need during the coronavirus pandemic. Those assessed by (eg) their GP as clinically extremely vulnerable are likely to have priority need.

Section 8.45 also refers to rough sleepers, who may need to be considered vulnerable in the context of COVID19, taking into account their age and underlying health conditions. Local authorities must have regard to the HCOG when making decisions about homeless applications read the guide here

Free visa extensions – frontline health workers: The government has announced that healthcare professionals with a visa expiring between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021 will be able to extend their visa free of charge for 1 year. The list of professions that can do this does not include care workers other than social workers. Family members will also be eligible if their visas also expire between these dates. Read more here.

DEBT

Breathing Space – Debt Respite Scheme – begins on 4 May 2021: The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) will give someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from creditor action, giving them time to get advice and find an appropriate debt solution. There are 2 types of breathing space:

A standard breathing space is available to any client with problem debt. It gives them legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. The protections include pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors and freezing most interest and charges on their debts. Standard Breathing Space applications can be provide  by debt advice providers who are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer debt counselling,

A mental health crisis breathing space is only available to a client who is receiving mental health crisis treatment. If an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) certifies a client is in mental health crisis treatment, the client or someone else might ask for a mental health crisis breathing space on the client’s behalf. The AMHP’s evidence form will give details for a nominated point of contact – which will be Rethink.

The mental health crisis breathing space has some stronger protections than the standard breathing space. It lasts as long as the client’s mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days (no matter how long the crisis treatment lasts).

Govt information for money advisers is here. Stepchange has a useful summary aimed at people in debt – here.

BENEFITS

DWP – May bank holidays – changes to office openings and payment arrangements: On Monday 3 and 31 May Jobcentre Plus offices and phone lines will be closed. Payment dates have been brought forward

Customers due to be paid on Monday 3 May will be paid on Friday 30 April. Customers due to be paid on Monday 31 May will be paid on Friday 28 May.

Clients with a disability on income-based JSA told to claim UC: Citizens Advice report a number of recent cases where the DWP have contacted claimants on income-based JSA with disability/enhanced disability/ severe disability premiums informing them that as they are not fit for work, their JSA claim will close and they need to claim UC. This is not correct. As long as the JSA claimant is available for work, actively seeking work and has a current jobseeker’s agreement, a disabled jobseeker is able to remain on income-based JSA. Clients should seek independent advice if they are in this situation.

DLA for children with long covid: DWP medical guidance has been updated to suggest that a 12-month award is appropriate for children with disablement solely caused by post-Covid syndrome. For those children where post-Covid syndrome is a secondary condition, DWP staff are advised to determine the duration of awards for the primary disability as appropriate, on a case-by-case basis. See page 742 of the guide.

HOUSING

Landlord and tenant resolution: The Dispute Service Ltd (TDS) has launched a free service which will provide a conciliation and mediation service for both landlords and tenants with issues including rent arrears, property standards, repairs, breach of tenancy terms and low level anti-social behaviour. Read more here.

DOMESTIC ABUSE

House of Commons – list of organisations supporting victims of domestic abuse. This has just been updated here.

Local Information

Dorset Healthy Homes: Ridgewater Energy have been appointed to deliver the Healthy Homes Dorset scheme. This scheme is funded by BCP Council, Dorset Council and Public Health Dorset. The service provides free impartial energy advice, access to funding for insulation & heating improvements and referrals to other agencies. Energy assessors will in some cases complete a home visit, in order to identify any potential energy saving improvements required, to ensure funding is identified and the relevant works are installed. Read more here.

Dorset Community Action’s Newsletter no 14 is here. It includes a link to a survey on the ‘state of the sector’.

Training, events, etc

Policy in Practice webinar – Implementing Breathing Space: Wednesday 19 May, 10.30 – 11.45, register here. Previous webinars can also be viewed, including one from 28 April: How local authorities can prepare for the end of the eviction banhere.

Public Law Project – Judicial Review training: A complete course, run in short (1hour +) sessions over 4 days (14-17 June) to provide lawyers and advisers, policy people and decision makers with an understanding of bringing and defending judicial review claims. The course is also relevant to those working in campaigning organisations with a legal strategy and those representing and advising marginalised groups in society. Standard ticket is £138, some discounts available. Read more here.

Research, Reports, Blogs

Dorset Community Foundation – Dorset in the Pandemic: This report records the impact made by the Foundation’s £1.1 million Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund, which made 328 grants to 220 groups. Read more here.

UC Deductions: CPAG are hoping to challenge the rate of recovery of UC advance payments via judicial review. They are looking for claimants who:

  • took out an advance payment at the start of their UC claim (made at any time); and
  • are currently repaying that advance at a monthly rate which is higher than 15% of their standard allowance (if repayments are not taken from earned income) or higher than 25% of their standard allowance (if their repayments are deducted from earned income)

If you know of someone who is facing this issue and might be interested in challenging it, please contact Claire Hall at CPAG: chall@cpag.org.uk.

Citizens Advice – Buy Now Pain Later: Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is a financial product that lets people split or delay payments to make them more manageable in the short-term. Whilst this is helpful for some, as a credit product it is inherently risky. Recent Citizens Advice research finds that of people who’ve used BNPL in the last 12 months:

  • 26% have regretted using a BNPL product
  • 39% used it without realising
  • 42% didn’t fully understand at least one part of what they were signing up for
  • 41% have struggled with making a repayment

If you’ve not come across BNPL before, the main providers are Klarna, Clearpay, LayBuy, Openpay and PayPal. Read more here.

Personnel Today report on a survey of 250 employees, of whom 90% had errors with their pay. 71% reported 3 incidents since March 2020 and 65% borrowed money from friends or family, or used high-interest loans or credit cards to get by. The problems appear, at least in part, to be due to flexible furlough and changes to the rate of employer contributions to the 80% of furlough pay that we saw last summer. Employer contribution rates to furlough will change again from July until the scheme ends in September 2021. Read more here.

Funding news

Dorset Community Foundation / Wessex Water Environment Fund: This fund opens on 3 May and closes on 4 June. It supports charitable and community activities which improve the local environment and have a positive impact on the quality of life for the local area. Grants of up to £1,500 are targeted at organisations where a small amount of money can make a significant difference. Applications must demonstrate one of more of the following outcomes:

  • Involves communities in environmental activities that benefit the local area
  • Has a positive impact on the local environment
  • Shares learning about the local environment with others

Read more here.

Lloyds Bank Foundation: Racial Equity funding for small and local charities that are led by and that support Black, Asian, and ethnic minority communities. This funding strand will open on 20th April, when charities can apply for two-year unrestricted grants of £50,000 alongside development support.  

The funding will be open year-round, meaning charities can apply at a time that suits them and will not be restricted by deadlines. The Foundation is looking to support charities where more than half of their Trustee Board self-identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic, with an annual income of between £25,000 and £1m, and with a strong track record of helping people from minority communities across 11 complex social issue,=sm such as aaddiciton, homelessness, mental heath etc.

Read more here, and watch a webinar on youtube here.

The Empowering Women Fund, part of the Labyrinth Project, is a Tampon Tax funded grant scheme, led by Solace. A national funding programme is accepting applications from small women’s groups and organisations to support the development of innovative ways of empowering women in their local area, and to build organisations’ capacity.

There are Seed Funding grants of £500 to £1,000, and Women’s Sector grants of £1,000 to £25,000 to develop capacity and deliver short-term projects. Deadline 27 May 2021. Read more here.