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

Job opportunities

Citizens Advice Central Dorset – Advice Service Manager , Weymouth: The role is to lead and develop a local team of volunteers and paid staff who deliver high quality advice and support in one of the highest areas of need in Dorset.
Hours: 28 Hours per week
Salary: £21,753 actual per annum (£28,745 full time equivalent)
Location: Weymouth & Portland
Term: Permanent
Start Date: Immediate Start

Closing date: 27 May. For more information:

Information updates

MAY’S INFORMATION FACT SHEET;

Covid19 changes

Furlough from 1 May: Employers can claim furlough support for workers who were subject to PAYE payroll submissions on or before 2‌‌ ‌March 2021. This rule change captures workers that missed the previous CJRS cut off date of 30 October 2020.

SEISS – fourth grant: The fourth SEISS grant covers 1 February – 30 April, and you must have traded in both tax years (2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021), and your business is impacted by Covid19. Claim before 1 June 2021. Read more here.

Advice for pregnant employees: Updated on 29 March, here.

BENEFITS

Local Housing Allowance – shared accommodation rate: Many single private renters who are under 35 can only claim the shared accommodation rate of housing benefit or universal credit housing costs. New regulations from 31 May extend the age range for exemptions from the shared accommodation rate of local housing allowance. The care leavers exemption will apply up to the age of 25 rather than 22. The homeless hostel exemption will apply from the age of 16 instead of from 25. Read more here.

DEBT

Breathing Space

A detailed factsheet aimed at clients is on the National Debtline website.

Breathing Space also has an effect on a number of other areas. For example:

  • the Assured Tenancies Regulations [2021 no 518] prescribed Form 3 has been updated to take into account the new Breathing Space regulations which prohibit a landlord from serving a notice seeking possession while a tenant is in a Breathing Space moratorium.
  • Deductions from benefits under Breathing Space: The DWP has issued guidance to creditors on how to notify them about deductions from legacy benefits for fuel, water or rent arrears when a client claiming a legacy benefit starts or ends a moratorium. The guidance reminds creditors that deductions for ongoing consumption of water and fuel will continue and the Breathing Space scheme doesn’t affect third party deductions from Universal Credit.

Individual Voluntary Agreements [IVAs]: A new protocol will come into effect on 1 August 2021. This will be used to give clients a clearer understanding of what they are committing to before they take on an IVA. It strengthens guidance on treatment of vulnerable consumers, and includes new guidance for insolvency practitioners (IPs) on the use of lead generators. The treatment of equity in the home (part 7 of the terms and conditions) has changed to give more certainty from the outset of the IVA.  Read the protocol here.

HOUSING

Absent Joint Tenant (untidy tenancies): Where the claimant has a joint tenancy but is the only joint tenant living in the property, the claimant should be treated as liable for the total rent for benefit purposes. This can apply in both Social Rented Sector and Private Rented Sector. A declaration from the claimant should be sufficient to satisfy the verification requirement.

Social Housing Complaints – ‘make things right’: This Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government campaign gives residents advice about how to raise complaints if they are unhappy with their landlord and struggling to get problems resolved, with clear advice on how to progress issues to the Housing Ombudsman if necessary. Read more here.

OTHER

Domestic Abuse Bill; This has just been granted Royal Assent. This includes a wide-ranging definition of domestic abuse (physical violent or threatening behaviour, psychological, emotional, coercive and controlling behaviour and economic abuse). Protection and support for survivors includes:

  • Ensuring survivors can no longer be cross examined in family and civil courts by their abuser
  • Making special provisions for survivors in court to prevent intimidation

It will also give the police new powers under Domestic Abuse Protection Notices, create a new offence of non fatal strangulation, and place a duty on local authorities to provide support to survivors of abuse and their children. Read the press release here.

Maternity information in other languages: Maternity Action have produced online factsheets on maternity pay and other rights in 8 languages: simplified Chinese, Filipino, French, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. Read more here.

LOCAL INFO

Dorset Council – Digital Champion sessions are restarting, initially in Dorchester and Gillingham. Dorset residents can once again get face-to-face advice on any digital queries such as setting up and using devices including phones, tablets and PCs. Read more details on the press release here.

Mental Health Support in Dorset: The updated information sheet (below) provides signposting to adult and older person mental health supports which are available in addition to the existing primary care and secondary care mental health services.

Events

This is Mental Health Awareness Week: The theme this year is Nature; read more about it here.

Volunteers Week 1 – 7 June: This is a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and say thank you. Read more here.

Policy in Pratice webinar: What we all need to know about Breathing Space. Weds 19 May 10.30 am. More info here.

DCA Support Webinar – Latest Government Updates – The Road Map to Reopening: Weds 19 May 11.30. Book here.

Reports, research, blogs and other news

Joseph Rowntree Foundation comments on the Queen’s Speech: The JRF Director comments here on disappointment that “providing security for low paid worker was not a priority”. However there was a welcome for the Renters Reform Bill – provided it delivers. Citizens Advice also covered why this Bill is important in a blog posted before the Queen’s Speech – see below.

Citizens Advice – A Renters’ Reform Bill to fix a broken rental market: The current situation highlights a long-standing problem in the private rental sector — the imbalance of power between landlords and tenants. Renters are often on short-term, precarious contracts, with landlords holding all the cards. When things go wrong, tenants don’t know where to turn. read the blog here.

Confusion and Stigma’: A report led by the University of Salford and funded by the Health Foundation finds hundreds of thousands of people were not aware they could claim support via Universal Credit during the pandemic, while others had chosen not to claim due to the perceived hassle of applying or the stigma around claiming benefits. Read more here.

Minimum wage underpayment: The Low Pay Commission’s recent report concludes that Covid-19 has left low-paid workers more vulnerable and businesses under greater pressure than ever before. The LPC report says that the increased risk of minimum wage underpayment demands a proactive and strategic response from the government. A weaker labour market, where low-paid workers have fewer choices, increases the likelihood of underpayment. Workers who are more concerned about their jobs will be less willing to challenge their employers and less likely to report abuses. Read more here.

Shelter’s Universal Credit Alert Briefing: The DWP have released their new Universal Credit statistics. Shelter analysed these numbers to show how the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted those renting privately. The new numbers show that private renters have been hit hardest with a huge spike in those needing housing support – an increase of 46% since February 2020. Local Housing Allowance (LHA) only covers the cheapest 3 in 10 privately rented homes in each local rental market. However, as shown in this briefing, now 45% of privately renting households are claiming LHA. Read the report here.

Legal Services Consumer Panel – Strategy 2021-24: The introduction to this says that despite the work of legal professionals, courts and judiciary through the pandemic “for many ordinary citizens in need of the protection provided by legal services, this has been a really hard year. Problems that had already been identified before COVID19 hit us, such as the appalling backlog in court lists, and the build-up of unresolved complaints from consumers, have become even worse. The reduced levels of funding
for those unable to pay legal costs themselves, and the evidence of inequality in the levels of service offered to those from ethnic minority communities, show no signs of abating”. A collaborative approach going forward will be vital. Read more here.

Gambling Commission – Market overview – consumer research: Data from January to March 2021 has been analysed to understand the impact of the Lockdown on people in broad terms (loneliness etc) and in relation to gambling behaviour. Read more here.

Funding News

BH Coastal Lottery: The fourth round of BH Coastal Lottery Small Grants is open. Small voluntary sector organisations providing services within Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole that meet the criteria can apply for up to £500.00. The deadline is Monday 31st May 2021. Read more here.

National Survivor User Network – Side by Side fund: The Fund will award grants of up to £500 to peer support, mutual aid or self-help groups in England and Wales to connect remotely, prepare to move their activities to face-to-face, or make their group more sustainable. The peer support, mutual aid or self-help group must benefit people or communities who live with mental ill-health, trauma and distress. Deadline 31 may. Read more here.