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

No listings this week.

Information updates

The MARCH Information fact sheet is here:

BUDGET – benefits and other support:

Universal Credit £20 uplift now extended to 30 September 2021 (Paragraph 2.19). Follow this link for information on the standard allowance and the other elements that make up UC.

Working Tax Credits claimants to receive one off payment of £500 plus continued relaxation of WTC hours requirement (Para 2.20 / 2.24).  HMRC will contact people by text message or letter in April to confirm if they are eligible.This includes those who, on 2 March 2021, receive:

  • Working Tax Credit payments
  • both Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit payments
  • Child Tax Credit payments and are eligible for Working Tax Credit but do not get a payment because their income is too high

Those eligible should receive their payment by 23 April. Read more here.

Extended relaxation of UC minimum income floor for the self employed until 30 June 2021 (Para 2.22). It will then be gradually introduced with work coaches having discretion as to when it is re-applied. More on UC for self employed people is here.

Higher surplus earnings threshold of £2500 extended to April ’22 (Para 2.21). For a quite detailed explanation of the surplus earnings rules, go to the revenuebenefits website.

Care leavers under 25 (previously 22) exempt from Shared Accommodation Rate in UC/HB from June 2021 (Para 2.28). More on this topic on Shelter’s website.

Recovery of UC advances extended to 24 months (new claims only according to Touchbase) and the maximum rate of UC advance recovery reduced from 30% to 25% of the standard allowance from April 2021 (Para 2.23). This change stats in April, and information does not yet seem to be on any of the Govt websites.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rebate scheme extended in line with other support schemes. This scheme reimburses small and medium sized employers for up to two week’s SSP costs in respect of any of their eligible employees who was unable to work due to being sick or having to self-isolate or, where they were not furloughed, to shield due to COVID-19. 

CJRS [Job Retention Scheme]: The scheme will continue to pay 80% of employees’ usual wages for hours not worked, capped at £2,500 per month, until the end of June 2021. In July the employer needs to contribute 10% and in August and September 20%. Guidance for employees is here.

Eligibility will change from 1‌‌ ‌May 2021 onwards; employers will be able to claim for workers that were on PAYE payrolls on or before 2 March 2021 (i.e. they do not need to have been on the payroll at the last CJRS cut off of 30 October 2020) and who were the subject of RTI/paye payroll submissions to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021. 

SEISS fourth grant: information is here.

OTHER BENEFIT INFO

EU Nationals with pre settled status. The ‘Fratila’ case ruled that EU nationals making a claim for UC before 31 December 2020 can rely on their pre-settled status. The DWP has now been given leave to appeal this decision at the Supreme Court. In the mean time, any similar cases of EEA Nationals whose only right to reside is on the basis of pre-settled status and who made claims before 31st December 2020, will not be decided and any mandatory reconsiderations will not be made or acted upon until the appeal has been heard.

The DWP have also issued guidance suggesting that the Fratila judgement does not cover any similar decisions relating to claims made  after 1st January 2021 (post Brexit). However, according to  legal academics, this guidance is also  contentious …….we suggest you seek specialist advice if you encounter anyone in these situations. NB: The issue applies to several other benefits, not just UC. CPAG have produced a guidance note here.

State Pension Corrections: The DWP became aware of issues with State Pension underpayments in 2020 and is currently investigating the extent of the problem.

This work involves a thorough examination of the State Pension payments, and consideration of any changes to the individual’s circumstances since the original State Pension award was made, to establish if an underpayment has occurred. Where underpayments are identified, the department will contact the individual to inform them of the changes to their State Pension amount and of any arrears payment they will receive. Read more about this, and the scenarios where people may have been underpaid, here.

Pension Credit – increasing take up: Various toolkits are available here, with ideas and guidance for organisations wishing to encourage pensioners to claim Pension Credit where they might be entitled. 

HOUSING

Eviction ban extended to 31 May: This has just been announced, so I can only find a summary on the BBC website – more info next week.

OTHER ISSUES

Information for parents/carers about early years, school and colleges: Govt information was updated on 5 March, and is here. For guidance on supporting children who are anxious about returning, go to Young Minds.

Contactless card payments: The threshold has changed from £45 to £100 for individual payments. The amount that can be spent across 5 consecutive payments before a customer is asked to provide their PIN has gone up to £300, from £130. Read the FCA press release here.

Census day – 21 March: The census can be completed online here, and households should receive an access code in the post. You can also request a paper copy here or call the Support Centre: 0800 141 2021.

Events

DCA Networking Event: Wednesday 17 March 11.30. Book here.

Research, Reports, Blogs etc

Why are people having to choose between broadband and buying food? Citizens Advice research has found that 1 in 6 people are struggling to afford their broadband bills. Since the pandemic, people have had to rely on it to access education, do essential shopping, work and connect with family and friends. Broadband is increasingly the first, and sometimes only, gateway to accessing public and private services. Citizens Advice are calling for it to be made compulsory for all broadband providers to offer an affordable tariff to people on low incomes. Read more here.

​Report to prevent future deaths: The Coroner for the inquest into the death of Philippa Day in 2019 identifies a number of failings at the DWP and Capita which led to her taking an overdose. These include call handlers not being adequately trained, records of calls being brief and at times inaccurate, and ‘a misleading letter …… which led Philippa Day to consider that her benefits would be stopped if she did not attend the upcoming appointment’ . Read the report here.

Food banks in the UK: This House of Commons research briefing published on 9 March includes analysis of the accelerated increase in the provision of emergency food parcels over 2020-21, an overview of food banks in general, and information on the government’s new food insecurity indicators. Read more here.

How the benefit system can do more to support women: This Policy in Practice blog, published as part of International Women’s Day, explores how the benefit system can do more to support women, how it has impacted women during the pandemic, and how it can be changed to create a more equal benefit system. Read morer here.

Funding news

Hall and Woodhouse Community Chest: Charities and community interest companies can apply for a grant to go towards improving their local area— to help the youth, elderly, disabled, arts, environment and more. The Community Chest in 2021 includes an annual pool of funds totalling £50,000. The application process opened on 5th March and will close on the 7th May. Grants range from £400 – £4,000. Read more here.

Lloyds Bank Foundation [2021]: This foundation funds small and local charities, investing in their work helping people overcome complex social issues across England and Wales. They support charities with an annual income of £25,000 to £1 million with a proven track record of helping people on a journey of positive change through in-depth, holistic and person-centred support. They offer unrestricted funding, including around core costs, and tailored development support to help your charity be more effective.

Although there are no deadlines, there is a Q&A webinar with members of the grants team on 30 March between 2pm – 3.30pm, register here.

Pixel Fund: This year the funder is focussing on mental health and well being of children and young adults. Grants are generally between £500 and £5,000. However, no single grant is ever more than 5% of annual income. Read more here.

Allen Lane Foundation: The Foundation makes grants of up to £15,000 to voluntary not-for-profit organisations in the UK for work which benefits groups of people who are under-represented in UK society. The average grant is between £5,000 and £6,000.

The new Social Cohesion programme will focus 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. The aim of the new programme is to:

  • Proactively work towards building better community cohesion and trust, and encouraging respect and understanding in the local area
  • Proactively promote the inclusion of marginalised groups and individuals in the life of the local community
  • Fund work which breaks down barriers and tensions in the local community thereby reducing feelings of division and “them and us”.

Read more here.

Comic Relief Capacity Building grants of £1,000: Organisations in England whose work delivers on one of Comic Relief’s four strategic themes can apply:

  • Children Survive and Thrive: Projects that support children up to the age of eleven to reach their potential and have the best start in life.
  • Fighting for Gender Justice: Projects that improve equality for women, girls and initiatives that help people affected by domestic violence, abuse or exploitation due to their gender.
  • A Safe Place to Be: Projects that support people who are rebuilding their lives because of homelessness or forced migration.
  • Mental Health Matters: Projects that support good mental health in communities, improve access to support and tackle stigma and discrimination.

More information on the Groundwork website.