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

Information Updates

CHANGES FROM 2 DECEMBER 2020

What is allowed: Full guidance on Tier 2 restrictions is here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae#high-alert

Jobcentres (in Tier 2) will remain open, maintaining social distancing requirement; disability benefit assessments are still suspended. Read mre: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/jobcentre-guidance-on-covid-19-local-restriction-tiers

Clinically extremely vulnerable: New guidance has been issued effective from 2 December 2020, with several key changes for the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), including:

  • If you cannot work from home, you can go to work.
  • All shielding notes will no longer be valid. Shielding may be reintroduced in some tier 3 locations, but the CEV will be written to if so.

Read the full guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/cev-from-2-dec

Self isolation payments: Last week we highlighted the problem faced by someone being contacted by the NHS app but not being able to claim a self-isolation payment.

GOOD NEWS! England and Wales’ contact-tracing app is to add a Self-Isolation Payment feature as soon as next week. This will address a discrepancy that those told to stay at home by human contact-tracers can qualify for £500 of support, but (due to privacy safeguards) for those contacted by the NHS Covid-19 app it was difficult to make this offer available.

It is hoped the move will encourage more people to install the app and follow its guidance over the Christmas period, when there are concerns that cases of the coronavirus could spike again.

Citizens Advice locally and nationally were crucial in highlighting this issue – read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-55133926

BENEFITS

Just a postscript to the above: Self-isolation payments will not affect DWP benefits.

Attendance Allowance. Update from DWP: People whose AA awards expire on or after 8 March 2021 will receive renewal packs in the coming weeks and will have the normal 20 week period to complete and return their packs prior to their award expiring.  Awards that were due to expire before 8 March 2021 will be automatically extended and will continue to receive payments until they are subject to a review at a later date.   NB:If someone claiming AA has a change of circumstances they still need to inform DWP.

COVID19 SCHEMES / SUPPORT

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme [SEISS]: The scheme has been extended and:

  • SEISS third grant applications can be made from 30 November until 29 January 2021
  • the third grant comprises 80% of average monthly trading profits, is capped at £7500 and payable in a single instalment

The criteria are that you must have traded in both tax years:

  • 2018 to 2019 and submitted your Self Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020 for that year
  • 2019 to 2020

You must either:

You must also declare that:

  • you intend to continue to trade
  • you reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits

For the full guidance go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme

DEBT

Breathing Space’ regulations: The Debt Respite regs will come into force on 4 May 2021. A breathing space moratorium will place a temporary hold on creditor enforcement action and charges to give clients time to get advice and find an appropriate debt solution. Debt advisers will act as a gateway for the scheme administered by the Insolvency Service. The insolvency service will publish guidance for debt advisers and creditors setting out their duties under the scheme in due course. The regs are here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2020/9780348209976/contents 

IMMIGRATION

No Recourse to Public Funds: A person will have no recourse to public funds when they are ‘subject to immigration control’. This is defined in section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. A person who is subject to immigration control cannot claim public funds (benefits and housing assistance), unless an exception applies.  People will be in this category if they have ‘irregular immigration status’ eg. they have overstayed their visa, or they are an asylum seeker or an ‘appeal rights exhausted’ asylum seeker.

Looking ahead into 2021, it may also apply to some EEA nationals who have not obtained Pre-Settled or Settled Status.

A good source of information is the NRPF Network: https://www.nrpfnetwork.org.uk/

Those with children may be able to use ‘Section 17’ arguments: Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 imposes a general duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of ‘children in need’ in their area. Project 17 provides support and useful resources/factsheets etc: https://www.project17.org.uk/

Practical support and information are provided by the British Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.uk/get-help/get-help-as-a-refugee

NB: there is also a webinar next week on this topic – see below.

OTHER

Divorce – HMCTS guidance for online applications: HMCTS say that the most common reasons online divorce petitions are rejected include:

  • the behaviour details being uploaded as a separate document 
  • attempting to apply for civil partnership dissolution 
  • asking for service on the respondent’s solicitor

For guidance go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/myhmcts-how-to-use-online-divorce-services

Local Information

Dorset Open Door – bereavement support: Dorset Open Door is a partnership of healthcare organisations and charities, and they’ll help organise support from the right organisation. Call 01305 361 361 or email mailto:dhc.dorsetopendoor@nhs.net

Read more: https://www.publichealthdorset.org.uk/document-library/dorset-open-door-bereavement-services-info-sheet.pdf

Dorset Council – Coronavirus helpline for parents and carers: If you need someone to talk to about how you can help your child and your family during Covid19, call 01258 474036 to make an appointment for a telephone consultation, up to 30-minutes with an educational psychologists. 

Events, webinars etc

NRPF – overcoming barriers to support during Covid19: Webinar (free) from Garden Court Chambers Community Care Team. Tuesday 8 December, 5 – 6.30pm. It will cover asylum (challenging subsistence rates), LAs and rough sleepers, and trafficking issues. Read more and book here: https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/events/nrpf-overcoming-barriers-to-support-during-covid

Carers Festival of Emotional and Mental Health- 17 & 18 December: This event is being hosted jointly on Zoom by Dorset Mental Health Carers Project and Rethink, and is supported by Dorset HealthCare. It is open to all Carers, Supporters and those who offer support to both Carers and Supporters and offers a range of online activities and workshops, concluding with an evening Quiz on Friday 18th December at 7:30pm. Please pass this information and the flyer (below) to your teams and service users.

‘To cap it all: understanding the reach and impact of the benefit cap’: A recording of the webinar held on 26 November looking at this subject in the light of the fact that the number of households hit by the cap almost doubled between February and May to 154,000, showing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Follow the link: https://www.welfarereform-largerfamilies.org.uk/events/to-cap-it-all-understanding-the-reach-and-impact-of-the-benefit-cap

Big Energy Saving Winter’s DECEMBER focus is on SWITCHING: You can save money on your energy bills by using our price comparison tool to compare prices, and by switching tariff or supplier to get the best deal.

If you would like Citizens Advice to run a short session for your service users, contact Caroline: mailto:caroline.buxton@centralca.org.uk

COMMUNITY ACTION NETWORK – Festive Cheer: Monday 7 December 1 – 2pm; an hour to chat, laugh and socialise for some light hearted pre-Christmas cheer. Booking: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-festive-gathering-tickets-129473953079

Reports, blogs etc

Policy in Practice: Spending Review 2020 – from health crisis to economic emergency. Last week Rishi Sunak laid out the Government’s spending plans. Given the unprecedented gloomy economic forecast, additional support for low-income households beyond the measures introduced at the start of the crisis was not expected. However, many of the frontline organisations working with households on low-income hoped for clarity over the ongoing retention, into 2021, of the benefit uplift introduced at the start of the crisis and further funding for councils as they support their residents. Neither of these were forthcoming.

Read more: https://policyinpractice.co.uk/spending-review-2020-from-health-crisis-to-economic-emergency/

Funding News

The Henry Smith Charity: The Improving Lives grant programme provides grants to charitable organisations that help people when other sources of support have failed, are inappropriate, or are simply not available. They support established organisations delivering services directly to beneficiaries. Funding covers running costs, salaries and projects.

Grants of £20 – 60k per year, projects of 1 to 3 years. There is a 6 month period for applications to be assessed, so they say you need to be considering how you would wish to deliver your services once the current government restrictions have been lifted. Read more: https://www.henrysmithcharity.org.uk/explore-our-grants-and-apply/improving-lives-grants-programme/improving-lives-grants-programme-overview/

Allen Lane Foundation – Social Cohesion Programme: This new programme focuses on funding projects that aim to proactively break down barriers and tensions between different groups of people and build a more cohesive and inclusive community for all. Read more: http://allenlane.org.uk/social-cohesion-programme/

Woodward Charitable Trust: The Trust provide small grants for core costs; very few grants are over £1,000. Grants that represent more than 10% of an organisations previous year’s income are unlikely to be made, and they rarely fund charities that hold more than 6 months of operating reserves. Priority areas are children and young people, disadvantaged families and prisoners/ex-offenders. The next grant round closes on 28 January 2021. Read more: http://woodwardcharitabletrust.org.uk/general_applications/