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 requires an experienced caseworker to join our team. This role is based at The Cranborne Practice in their Cranborne and Verwood surgeries. It is expected that you would work alternate Fridays at either location. You will provide generalist casework and have experience of dealing with a wide range of topics including Benefits, Housing, Debt and Employment issues.

Hours: 6 Hours per week (Friday). Salary: £4150 (actual per annum). Closing date: 15 April 2021. read more:

Citizens Advice Central Dorset – trustee (volunteer role): We are looking for a new trustee to chair the people subcommittee and to join our Board which is responsible for the overall direction, vision and oversight of Citizens Advice Central Dorset.
● Voluntary Position, for CACD which covers the Dorchester, Gillingham, Sherborne and Weymouth and Portland Area
● Time requirement of 3 to 4 hours per month plus additional Sub Committee, Board and Executive Meetings
● Qualities: Enthusiasm, commitment to the aims of Citizens Advice and an interest in people, governance, social justice, training, policies and practises associated with staff, volunteers and trustees
● Closing Date: 9th April 2021

Read more:

Carer Support Dorset – Carer Advisor: CSD is a local charity supporting unpaid carers across Dorset who are caring for a relative, friend or neighbour who has an illness or disability.

Salary: £23,541 to £25,991 per annum. Hours: 37 hours a week including occasional weekend/evening. Closing date: 6 April 2021.

The post is part of a team, and involves answering queries from carers of all ages by phone or email, registering them on the Dorset Carers Register, providing information, advice and guidance, and signpost and referring carers on where necessary, including for Care Act Carers Assessments.

Read more on their website.

Information updates

BENEFITS

Benefits Checker Tool: The DWP have launched a new tool to help people who think they might be eligible for Universal Credit. It takes a few minutes, and doesn’t require any detailed information, nor does it process or store personal data. It is an easy first step for anyone who is unsure whether they want to start a claim. There are also links on the introductory page to more detailed benefit calculator tools. The new checker tool is here.

Medical Assessments can be carried out by telephone and video: The DWP has issued guidance on new legislation that makes it clear that medical assessments for determining entitlement to specified benefits may be carried out by telephone or video. The benefits involved are: employment and support allowance (ESA), universal credit, personal independence payment (PIP) and industrial injuries disablement benefit. Read the Memo here.

EMPLOYMENT

Shielding ends 1 April: Workers will lose entitlement to SSP or ESA on the basis of being advised to shield. Workers too unwell or unable to attend work may be otherwise eligible for SSP or ESA – furlough remains an option. Read the govt press release here. Fuller guidance on what to do if you are employed and cannot work is here.

ACAS information: This link takes you to a contents page for all coronavirus-related employment information.

Employment status – employed or self-employed? This can at times be a complex issue to untangle, but it is vital in order to give people the correct advice. There is an HMRC tool to check employment status for tax (CEST) here, which can be used to:

  • see if HMRC will treat you as employed or self-employed for tax purposes if you have or expect to have a work contract
  • find out the employment status of a worker or an individual you engage or represent

Supreme Court ruling for people ‘sleeping’in’: This recent judgement related to a Mencap residential care home, and ruled that when workers are allowed to sleep at work this does not trigger entitlement to the National Minimum Wage. ‘Sleep-in’ workers should receive an allowance (although there is no legislative basis for this) and not the NMW unless they are awake for the purpose of working.

‘Everyday is different’: The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a national adult social care recruitment campaign. This is a sector where job opportunities are growing and the campaign highlights the rewarding, varied and flexible roles available across the sector. It also shows people that to become a care worker, no previous experience is required as on-the-job training is provided. For more information go to their website.

IMMIGRATION

Visas expiring by 30 June – Exceptional Assurance: This is additional time that can be requested if someone has a visa that is about to expire and they are unable to leave the UK because of coronavirus. Applications are made by email and should contain personal details and evidence of reason for request. Anyone that applied previously on a form and is waiting for a decision should also email with all their details again. Anyone already with a grant of exceptional assurance who still can’t leave must reapply for a further extension with further evidence. Read more here.

OTHER

Domestic Abuse – green phone symbol: This initiative offer a free phone call with a family solicitor, and is run in conjunction with Resolution and Only Mums and Dads. The website sponsored by Only Mum and Dads provides a link to help identify a local solicitor.

Suzy Lamplugh Trust – personal safety advice: useful information leaflets are here. There is also a National Stalking Helpline: 0808 802 0300.

Civil Court Proceedings – fees: These will be going up shortly, for example an online claim for an amount up to £300 goes up from £25 to £35. Read the regulations here. Court fees are added to the amount recoverable from the defendant unless they manage to successfully defend the claim or the costs of the claim.

Events

Debt Awareness Week 22 – 28 March 2021: This is an annual campaign to open up the conversation around debt and encourage people who need help or advice to seek it out. This year it will highlight some of the barriers people might face, such as feeling embarrassed about their debts or not knowing how to open up to their friends, family or creditors about their situation. The hashtag is #TheFirstStep and there is toolkit on the Stepchange website here.

Research, reports, blogs….

Citizens Advice: Life through Lockdown. This report gives an insight into how our service has changed, what our data suggests about how people have been affected by the pandemic so far, and what this might mean for the future.  Read the press release here.

Resolution Foundation – ’12 month stretch’: This Briefing Note explores the past 12 months of the pandemic through the health crisis, the economic crisis, and their impact on households’ ability to cope financially. It takes a step back, considering the big picture of what policy makers have done, how well they have done it, and where it’s left people, both in terms of health and economic outcomes. Read more here.

CPAG Blog: Delivering on deductions. The budget outlined changes to how the government reclaims advance payments made to UC claimants. From April, advances will be repaid over up to 24 months (as opposed to up to 12 months), while the maximum combined deduction rate (for most deductions, not just those for advance payments) will be reduced from 30 per cent to 25 per cent of the standard allowance. These changes have been brought forward from October 2021, and whilst they are welcome, they do not substantially change the fact that millions of households are receiving deductions from their social security entitlement during their time of need.  and that this will continue to have a big effect on family finances. Read more here.

Shelter’s Blog – High Court ruling on UC deductions: This recent ruling finds that the DWP’s rigid formula for deducting court fines from Universal Credit was unlawful, and that they should exercise discretion. The DWP have been granted leave to appeal. Read the blog here.

Revitalising Rural: This is a campaign led by the Rural Services Network to challenge government on a number of policy areas that affect rural communities. The campaign sets out 14 policy areas and for each, several Asks of Government. The areas include digital connectivity, transport, affordable housing, schools and community facilities……read more here.

Community Access to Cash: This is an independent initiative supported by the major banks, consumer groups, and groups representing small businesses. They are supporting 9 communities across the UK to trial and test scalable solutions to help keep cash sustainable. The results of the pilot will be used to inform regulators and industry alike so that cash can remain a viable mode of payment for consumers across the UK, and so that small businesses are able to continue to accept and bank cash. Give the the risk of more bank branch closures this is a welcome initiative – read more on their website.

Law for Life is a charity ‘dedicated to ensuring that everyone has the knowledge, confidence and skills they need to ensure access to justice’. Read more about their work here. You can also sign up for their newsletter.

Tribunals Journal: This Journal “aims to provide lively, interesting and informative articles to help those who sit on tribunals to maintain high standards of adjudication while remaining sensitive to the needs of those appearing before them”. The current edition, here, looks at how a number r of tribunal services responded to the challenges of the Covid19 lockdown.

Funding news

The Hedley Foundation provides grants to smaller charities operating across the spectrum of social need. They award grants to those charities that are able to demonstrate quantifiable outcomes to beneficiaries. Typically, grants of up to £5,000 are regularly made and occasional larger sums are given to charities where high impact can be achieved. Similarly, smaller charities often benefit from smaller grants of £250 upwards. Next deadline is 31 March. Read more here.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation awards grants to charities supporting Disadvantaged Children and Young People  and Later Life, socially isolated and lonely people. Small grants range from £1,000 to £15,000 and can be awarded over one to three years. Large grants start at £10,000 and usually range from £20,000 to £60,000, over one to three years.

  • Small grants Deadline 31 May 2021 (Outcome October 2021)
  • Large grants Deadline 1st Stage Deadline 31 March 2021  2nd Stage Deadline 31 May 2021 (Outcome October 2021)

Read more here.