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

Citizens Advice Central Dorset – Advice Session Supervisors needed at the Weymouth and the Dorchester offices. These are two separate roles (15 hours per week) or could be combined into one role (30 hours per week).

Hours: 15 Hours per week (per office)
Salary: £10,374 (per annum) per role
Location: Dorchester (Tuesday and Wednesday) or / and
Weymouth (Thursday and Friday)

The supervisor is required to run the daily multi-channel advice session (telephone, email, webchat, virtual and/or physical face to face) and at times to supervise a team of remote-working volunteer advisers and ensure service delivery and quality standards are maintained. The
successful candidate will have generalist advice experience in a Citizens Advice setting. Read more below:

Information updates

COVID RELATED INFORMATION

Self Employed Income Support Scheme: A 4th SEISS grant has already been announced for February to April 2021, but further information on what support will be available under the grant won’t be available until 3 March 2021 (the Chancellor’s Budget Statement for the next financial year). Read the guidance here.

CJRS – updated guidance on how to calculate employee’s hours: For employees wirth variable pay, employers need to use the calendar lookback method.  For CJRS claims in March and April 2021 the calendar lookback method provides that the employer must look back to March and April 2019 when calculating the employee’s usual wage. Where the worker was not employed in the lookback period, an employer can only use the averaging method to calculate 80% of their wages. Read the guidance here.

Taxation of Coronavirus support payments. Payments made under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme are subject to income tax, if people are a taxpayer, but they are not subject to National Insurance contributions. For employees, HMRC will automatically recover the tax from your pay with a change to your tax code. Self-employed recipients will need to report the payment on their 2020 to 2021 Self Assessment tax return. You can read the regulations here.

Undocumented migrants – access to Covid treatment and vaccines: NHS regulations about charges for ‘overseas visitors’ have been amended to include coronavirus in the list of conditions for which treatment is free of charge to everyone in the UK regardless of immigration status. The issue for many people will be that they are afraid to come forward. The Government has given an assurance that there will be no immigration checks for those being vaccinated. The JCWI have produced a report on this issues – see below.

DWP Job Finding Support service: Launched 3 February, job search advisers will be helping people to get back into work quickly and will help the recently unemployed who already have the skills and experience needed to move into a new career, but might not be sure where to start.

JFS will run in parallel to existing support that is available in jobcentres and will complement the role of work coaches who provide more intensive support for jobseekers, including anyone facing specific difficulties returning to work. read more here.

Work Capability Assessments – Update from DWP: To protect vulnerable claimants during the pandemic, face-to-face Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) remain suspended. The Department has been building its capacity and capability to do more telephone WCAs since they were first introduced in June 2020.

We are now expanding the types of cases that can go through to decision which will result in an increase in the number of Limited Capability for Work and Fit for Work decisions. This will ensure claimants receive the correct benefit entitlement and labour market support as quickly as possible, and reduce the time those who may be entitled to a higher award have to wait for their assessment.

Read more – for UC and for new style ESA.

OTHER ISSUES

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates for 2021/22 have been published, but following a decision last year they remain frozen at the 2020/21 rates. For the tables, follow this LINK.

The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) will give someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from creditor action. There is guidance for debt advice providers who want to set up a breathing space for clients to give them time to get advice and find an appropriate debt solution. it comes into force on 4 May 2021.

ENERGY / UTILITIES

ECHO (Emergency Central Heating offer) Scheme – Information from Ridgewater Energy: The ECHO Emergency Central Heating Offer has closed as of Monday 8th February. Any existing referrals already submitted will be processed as normal, subject to availability. Any referrals received after this date, will be added to a limited waiting list and will be processed in the next scheme year, once the new funding has been made available and the scheme reopens. We anticipate ECHO will reopen August/September 2021. Households struggling to keep warm this winter, will still be able to seek assistance from the Local Energy Advice. For local information contact Ridgewater; other energy saving information is also available from Healthy Homes Dorset. Energy advice, including saving money on bills, is also available locally from Citizens Advice.

Energy price cap: This will increase by £96 for default tariff customers and by £87 for prepayment meter customers. Wholesale prices fell sharply last year, but demand for energy has recovered, and pushed wholesale prices back up to a more normal level, Ofgem have said.

Wessex Water’s Help with bills form; A new online version is available here. you can also read more about Wessex Water schemes and other information on their Partnerhub.

Events

Big Energy Saving Network – training for frontline staff on Tuesday 23 February, 10.30 – 12. This free on-line session is aimed at anyone who encounters households, either face to face or by telephone, who are in or at risk of fuel poverty i.e those on a low income / in a vulnerable situation and may be struggling to pay their energy bills. Book here.

National Apprenticeship Week 8 – 14 February: Read more in the Suporter Guide here. There is also more detailed guidance on providing apprenticeships during Covid19 here.

Children’s mental health week: Although this was last week resources are available here. The theme was ‘express yourself’.

DCA Networking Webinar – Surviving and Thriving; Wednesday 17 February 11.30. What are your plans for the future and how will you implement them? DCA’s networking events are a perfect way to share your experiences, feel less isolated and hopefully pick up lots of ideas to help keep your organisation going. Book here.

Reports, research, blogs etc

Keep the lifeline campaign: You will be aware that various organisations are campaigning to retain the £20 uplift to Universal Credit from April 2021. Recently Citizens Advice have written to all Dorset/BCO MPs, and produced a short briefing:

Policy in practice blog – What the close of the SDP Gateway means for disabled people moving to Universal Credit. This is a good overview of what this means and the effect it will have on claimants. Although accurate numbers affected are hard to pin down, it is ‘reasonable to assume that the number of households in receipt of the SDP in their Income Support, JSA or ESA is around 528,000’. read more here.

Sick pay that works: This report on sick pay provision reviewed the options available to those on low incomes needing to self-isolate. The report identifies that the Low Income Self Isolation Support Grant (LISSG) was aimed at helping those workers ineligible for SSP, but has failed to deliver. The TUC and some employer organisations are recommending an overhaul of provision in this area to facilitate greater compliance with self-isolation guidance. They also suggest Statutory Sick Pay (SSP ) needs reform, and make the following recommendations:

  • abolish the earnings threshold for statutory sick pay, extending coverage to almost two million workers
  • for all absences, remove the waiting period for sick pay
  • increase sick pay to £330 a week, the equivalent of a week’s pay at the real living wage
  • provide additional funds to ensure employers can afford to pay sick pay.

Read more here.

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) – Migrants deterred from healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic: In a recent survey, almost half of the migrants surveyed (43%) said they would be scared to access healthcare if they got sick during this pandemic. Read more here.

Funding News

Bournemouth Water Neighbourhood Fund: £100,000-a-year funding available for neighbourhood community groups which inspire physical activities, education, health and wellbeing and deliver positive environmental outcomes. The type of projects we’re funding….

  • Protect nature and the environment for the benefit of community health and well-being
  • Providing new opportunities for people to learn and develop
  • Assisting local projects which bring communities together, virtually or physically – when safe to do so
  • Supporting the upkeep of local neighbourhood centres and facilities to keep communities strong

Grants of up to £5k – for more information go to the website. You will need to check that you fall into the Bournemouth Water area (NB. Most of the Dorset Council area is in Wessex Water’s patch).

Money Saving Expert: the MSE Charity gives grants to not for profit organisations that deliver activities which make a lasting impact on how people think, behave and manage their money. The February 2021 round is targeting and supporting the younger generation (under 25) who in the current difficult economic climate need support to develop and learn personal financial life skills.

All applications must demonstrate how the project they are seeking funding for has a lasting impact on the people taking part.

The maximum grant is £7,500. The applications most likely to be successful are those that ask for funding for a specific activity cost rather than a general contribution to running costs or a much larger project.

This round closes 26 February OR when they have received 40 applications, so you may need to act fast!! Follow this link.

BBC Children in Need: The Main (over £10,000 per year) and Small Grants (up to £10,000 per year) Programmes are currently open for applications and are for not-for-profit organisations applying for grants of up to three years.  Grants are aimed at children and young people aged 18 years and under experiencing disadvantage through:

1. Illness, distress, abuse or neglect

2. Any kind of disability

3. Behavioural or psychological difficulties

4. Living in poverty or situations of deprivation

Noel Buxton Trust: This Trust is focusing on families on the issue of domestic abuse.  Trustees will consider projects that work with survivors and/or perpetrators of domestic abuse. They will consider applications for recurrent funding over several years and for “core” running costs, but not for work in women’s or men’s refuges. They prefer to fund smaller grass roots organisations, and grants are up to to £5k per year for 3 years. Read more here. [Editors note: Noel Buxton was my husband’s great-uncle!]