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.

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Information updates

MAY’S INFORMATION FACT SHEET:

UKRAINE

Vis extensions: The government has launched the Ukraine visa extension scheme for Ukrainians who are in the UK on other visas who want to extend their stay in the UK. To be eligible you must:

  • be Ukrainian or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national who is applying to the scheme
  • have had permission to be in the UK (for example a visa) on 18 March 2022
  • If you previously had permission to stay in the UK but it expired on or after 1 January 2022 you’re also eligible to apply.

The visa is free of charge, and you do not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. It lasts for 3 years and will not be a route to settlement.

Ukrainian arrivals – National Insurance numbers (NINOs): This is cropping up as a barrier to accessing benefits. It is true that there is a NINO requirement for certain benefits (including UC) but that requirement is only that the person either has a NINO or provides enough information for a NINO to be allocated. Therefore there is no need for the client to have a NINO before a claim as one is created as part of the claims process. This policy to treat benefit claims as an application for NINO is confirmed in the DWP’s Decision Maker’s Guidance for legacy benefits and UC:

‘There is no entitlement to benefits unless the claim is accompanied by sufficient information or evidence:…….to enable a NINO to be allocated where the claimant or adult does not have a NINO and they apply for one. If the claimant does not have a NINO (for example as a person who has recently migrated to the UK), then an application for a NINO will be initiated from within the DWP if entitlement to benefit is established.The claimant should provide sufficient information and evidence to enable a NINO to be traced or allocated.’

Advisers coming across these situations have a number of options: quote the guidance, raise it with local partnership teams, raise a complaint, contact their MP. CPAG are also logging incidents,and are able to support with Judicial Review if needed.

CPAG Benefits for resettled Ukrainins – Factsheet: This factsheet provides basic information about the rights to benefits for resettled Ukrainians escaping the war. It also provides basic information about the potential impact on the benefits and other entitlements of ‘hosts’ of resettled Ukrainians. [NB although produced by CPAG Scotland this is UK wide information].

FAMILY / RELATIONSHIPS

Family Law – information, advice, support: Lily Fletcher, the Citizens Advice Family Caseworker based at Bournemouth Courts has produced a very useful summary of organisations who support families where there are disputes about children, and other issues.

BENEFITS / COST OF LIVING ISSUES

Universal Credit – migration: The Work and Pensions Secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey has announced that the DWP is to commence a ‘multi-site approach’ to the mandatory migration to universal credit from May. In a written statement to the House of Commons today, Dr Coffey sets out the DWP’s plans for completing the ‘Move to universal credit’ by 2024. Highlighting that there are currently around 2.6 million households receiving legacy benefits and tax credits who will need to move across to universal credit, Dr Coffey says that the DWP estimates that 1.4 million of these will receive a higher entitlement on universal credit and will ‘… benefit from moving voluntarily, rather than waiting for a managed migration. This is particularly the case for tax credit claimants, with our analysis estimating around two-thirds of them would benefit.’ Read the Govt’s Policy Paper here.

Further info in the DWP’s Touchbase newsletter says: From May, we will start to write to customers on legacy benefits to let them know that they will move across to Universal Credit and explain how the process will work. The letters to customers are called ‘Migration Notices’ and will let customers know that their legacy benefits are ending, and that they have three months to make their Universal Credit claim. To make sure our customers are fully supported, initial volumes of customers moving through the process will be small and controlled, initially five hundred. Everyone moving over from legacy benefits will have their entitlement to Universal Credit assessed against their current claims, with top up payments (“transitional protection”) provided for eligible claimants whose entitlement would have been reduced because of the change – ensuring they receive the same entitlement as on a legacy system. These will continue unless their circumstances alter. See aso under Events: there is a Policy in Practice webinar on this subject on 25 May.

Council Tax £150 cost of living rebate: This article on Adviser online gives a quick guide to some of the questions raised. The timetable for making the rebate across our areas is somewhat mixed; the following is from the Dorset Echo:

Dorset Council has confirmed those who paid their council tax for April via direct debit will be contacted in May regarding payment of the £150. The authority will also be writing to those who did not pay their council tax for the current month via direct debit in May too.

Dorset Live noted: In the BCP region the council states that it was informed of the government’s decision at a challenging point in the year, it comments: “Our expectation is that we should be in a position to pay the £150 Energy Rebate to residents who have paid their April Council Tax instalment by Direct Debit, in mid-May 2022. Whilst this payment is processed, we will be writing to the residents who do not pay by Direct Debit, inviting them to apply.”

Phone and broadband: More companies have launched phone and broadband social tariffs for people on certain benefits. Go to OFCOM.

British Gas Energy Trust (BGET) has launched a new Energy Support Fund which will run in addition to their existing Energy Trust Fund. Through the new fund, British Gas customers with fuel debt of £250 to £750 can apply for grants. The fund is aimed at ‘the most financially vulnerable British Gas customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills’, Read more here. They also have an ‘income maximisation’ checklist:

BGET Bounce Back checklist: Millions of households are missing out on benefits and services they are entitled to. The Bounce Back Checklist details the main benefits and schemes to help you get support and maximise your income – whether you’re working or not.

OTHER

HMCTS Vulnerability Action Plan: This has recently been updated here. The plan highlights a number of cross jurisdictional and family court initiatives. Some of the highlighted family improvements include changes to the domestic abuse, divorce and adoption application processes, and special measure changes to premises (for example the introduction of protective screens etc).

Minimum age for marriage and civil partnerships will increase to 18: The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April. At present it is possible to marry / register a civil partnership at the age of 16 or 17 with parental consent or approval from the family court. The Act imposes a minimum age of 18 in England and Wales, and when implemented will make marriage / civil partnership’s void where either of the parties is under 18. The purpose of the Act is to address child / forced marriage. The date of commencement is not yet known. BBC news article – here.

Events

Mental Health Awareness Week 9 – 15 May: The Mental Health Foundation says that week will explore the experience of loneliness, its effect on our mental health and how we can all play a part in reducing loneliness in our communities. Locally:

  • Cherries and Dorset Mind are teaming up with a one-off event at Vitality Stadium for 18-24 years olds on Tuesday 10 May 6 – 8pm: see this Dorset Chamber press release.
  • ‘Care First’ (NHS employee support) is running a series of webinars on this theme – more details here.
  • Dorset Leaders’ Wellbeing Summit: Leading Dorset businesses, statutory organisations, and the charity sectors are coming together to create an agreed Dorset Workplace Wellbeing Commitment. Tuesday 10 May 1 – 5, Bournemouth; booking via eventbrite.

Policy in Practice webinar – Migrating to Universal Credit during the cost of living crisis: Weds 25 May, 10am. More info here.

Research, reports, blogs etc

Housing Ombudsman call for evidence on noise complaints: Evidence will support a new systemic investigation into noise complaints. The investigation will be examining how social landlords manage reports of noise nuisance and what drives complaints about how those are handled. The consultation closes on 13 May 2022. Read more here.

Tenants Voice submissions to the Renters Reform Bill: The proposed Renters’ Reform Bill which would bring an end to section 21 eviction has yet to be published; however the government intends to publish a white paper in spring on how it intends to reform the private rented sector. The Citizens Advice Tenants Voice Panel – 9 people from across England living in the private rented sector – have shared their lived experiences and insights to help develop and shape policy asks for the Bill. Throughout the discussions one theme came up time and time again – security. Tenants often struggle to feel safe and secure in their properties given the ever present threat of eviction. The panel therefore felt that ending section 21, if done well, would make the biggest difference for tenants. Read the submission – As a renter you never feel truly at home – here.

EHRC taking action to improve the treatment of disabled benefit claimants: The Equality and Human Rights Commission is requiring the Department for Work and Pensions to improve its treatment of disabled benefit claimants. This is in response to serious concerns about failures to meet the needs of its customers with mental health impairments and learning disabilities. Disability campaigners had raised concerns with the Commission about the deaths of DWP customers in vulnerable situations, and an all-party group of MPs asked the EHRC in February 2021 to “undertake an investigation into the deaths of vulnerable claimants by suicide and other causes between 2008 and 2020”. The Commission examined whether the DWP was making reasonable adjustments to its processes for people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties, as required under the Equality Act 2010. Read the EHRC press release here.

Energy blog – delays getting credit transferred: This Citizens Advice blog reminds us that over 30 energy companies have failed over the last 8 months,and some people who had a credit balance have had problems. It is normal to keep a credit balance on an energy account over summer to cover higher bills in winter. But if this balance creeps up too high customer are allowed to ask for it back. Customers of failed energy suppliers have experienced long delays in accessing their credit balances — leaving them without extra cash to help with their bills. read more here.

New study reveals nearly 1 in 5 employers are likely to make redundancies over the next year: A recent poll found that large businesses were more likely to make redundancies than small and medium sized (SME) businesses. 3 out of 10 large businesses (30%) are likely to make redundancies and 10% of SMEs said that were likely to do so. Read more here.

Money and Mental Health Charity – urgent guidance to help providers support vulnerable customers through the energy crisis: The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has published a practical guide to help energy firms support vulnerable customers struggling to pay their energy bills. With millions of customers at risk of falling behind on energy payments due to soaring prices, the charity is calling on firms to act urgently to reduce the strain that people are facing. The new guidance provides practical, tangible steps firms can take to help customers. Read more here.

Disability pay gaps in the UK – 2021: This ONS report uses earnings statistics for disabled and non-disabled employees in the UK using regression analysis to provide more insight into factors that affect pay. The disability pay gap, the gap between median pay for disabled employees and non-disabled employees, was 13.8% in 2021 and 14.1% in 2019 prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; this gap has widened slightly since 2014 when disabled employees earnt 11.7% less than non-disabled employees.

Mental health and wellbeing plan: The Department for Health and Social Care has published its Mental health and wellbeing plan: discussion paper and call for evidence. This consultation closes on 5 July 2022. You can read more here, and there is also a link to the survey.

Benefits health assessments often fail disabled people – 3 things they get wrong and how to fix them: People don’t feel listened to……assessors are not specialised enough……written reports contain inaccuracies…..read more in this Citizens Advice blog here.

Funding News

Nationwide Buidling Socity Community Grants: Grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 are available, for either one or two years. Nationwide will fund between 50% to 100% of the total project cost.

The funding is for local housing projects that will strengthen local communities to support the most vulnerable by: Preventing people from losing their home, Helping people into a home, Supporting people to thrive within the home environment. The Community Boards will favour projects that:

  • Help charities get back on their feet after the impact of coronavirus/COVID-19.
  • Illustrate a clear link to Nationwide’s ambition for everyone to have a place fit to call home and can demonstrate the impact their project will have on the local community.
  • Are supporting people in housing need, in original or creative ways. This includes both projects already delivering local impact and those carrying out research to find new ways to challenge the housing crisis.
  • Have the potential to inspire and be used by others across the country.
  • Have robust plans to measure and report on the difference the grant will make.
  • Can demonstrate sustainability beyond the life of the grant, by building the skills of staff and volunteers, diversifying funding streams and providing long-term solutions for the people they are helping
  • Can evidence knowledge of local issues and have a network of local connections.

Closing date 27 May; read more here.

NFU Mutual Charitable Fund: The Trust offers grants to charitable organisations working in agriculture, rural development and insurance in the UK. Grants of £1k – £50k. Currently, the Trust’s main objectives are to:

  • Advance the education of the public by means of research and dissemination of information in relation to agriculture.
  • Advance the education of young people within rural areas.
  • Relieve poverty within rural areas.
  • Promote the benefit and social welfare of inhabitants of rural communities by associating together with the inhabitants and local authorities, voluntary and other organisations to advance education and leisure.
  • Advance the education of the public by means of research and dissemination of information in relation to agriculture.
  • Promote research into agricultural associated activities.
  • Advance the education of the public by means of research and dissemination of information in relation to insurance.

Note that they do not fund salaries. Closing date 27 May 2022. Read more here.