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

NHS – Steps to Wellbeing: Employment Adviser. There is a vacancy for a full-time adviser based in the North of the County or who has local knowledge and is prepared to travel between sites in Sherborne, Shaftesbury, Blandford  and Gillingham. The role is predominately telephone based supporting individuals looking to return to work or to retain their current employment. Full time, fixed term until March 2022 (possibility of extension). Read more here. There are also roles based at the Boscombe office.

Information updates

COVID RESTRICTIONS – What you can and cannot do from 17 May: Read the guidance here.

International travel: Although theoretically we can now travel abroad, you should avoid countries on the red or amber list. Guidance is here. In addition, the Govt has also published a charter which provides information on consumer rights, responsibilities and reasonable expectations for international travel while coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions remain in place.

NCVO have updated their information for organisations on subjects such as managing staff, working with volunteers, getting funding etc – here.

HOUSING

Eviction ban to end: The government has announced that the ban on bailiff enforced eviction would not be extended and will now come to an end on 31 May 2021. This means that from 1 June 2021 where a final order of possession has been made (regardless of the ground on which possession was ordered) and on a landlord’s application, warrants of eviction will be issued by courts and delivered to tenants. Warrants must give at least 14 days notice of the eviction date – as such all bailiff enforced evictions will commence from 16 June 2021.

Notice periods: The new notice requirements mean for most notices served on or after 1 June 2021 the notice period will be 4 months. From 1 October 2021 notice periods will return to the pre-pandemic period. These housing announcements are in a press release from 12 May, here.

DEBT

Debt Relief Orders: Eligibility for a DRO will change from 29 June onwards. Clients will qualify for a DRO as long as they have qualifying debts of no more than £30,000, no more than £2,000 worth of property and no more than £75 per month surplus income. The disregard for a single domestic car has gone up to £2,000. Read more in this press release.

Recovery of benefit overpayments from benefits: The DWP guide has been updated, for example, deductions for fines will be set at 5% of UC personal allowance as standard. Read more here.

EMPLOYMENT

Return to work: Although the government is still encouraging working from home when possible, if an employer is re-opening the workplace they must conduct a risk assessment before re-opening and should consult with staff.  There is guidance on the HSE website here.

Some employers may opt to join the ‘we offer testing to our staff ‘ scheme – read more here. However, there is no law that says staff must be tested for coronavirus or staff must agree to testing – unless there is an existing regulatory or contractual duty to submit. There is guidance on how an employer may seek to reach agreement on workplace testing with the workforce. More on this on the ACAS website.

BENEFITS

Medical assessments: Face-to-face medical assessments for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have resumed from 17 May 2021. Initially, face-to-face assessments should only be for clients who can’t be assessed through other channels, and the Minister has confirmed that work capability assessments would be prioritised for contributory ESA claimants who have exhausted, or are at risk of exhausting, their time-limited entitlement. The govt have produced a guide on attending a face-to-face medical, here.

LOCAL NEWS

Healthy Homes Dorset is funded by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, Dorset Council and Public Health Dorset. The service provides free impartial energy advice, access to funding for insulation & heating improvements and referrals to other agencies. The service is delivered by Ridgewater Energy – for more details go to the Healthy Homes website.

Local Authority Delivery funding was awarded to both Dorset and BCP Council. This funding can be used for Insulation and Renewable Energy Technologies. Residents in BCP and Dorset Council areas may be eligible for the scheme. Grants and eligibility are as follows;

  • Up to £10,000 grant for Owner Occupiers
  • Up to £5,000 for Privately Rented properties or two thirds of cost (of measures), whichever is lower.
  • EPC rating should be D, E, F or G rated – D rated properties are only permitted, if the work subsequently awards a C rating.
  • The household income needs to be below £30,000 per year (gross including any benefits).

Ridgewater Energy will be able to support a limited number of applications for this scheme, due to the tight timescales. If you wish to refer or require more information, please email info@ridgewaterenergy.co.uk.

OTHER

EU Settlement Scheme applications: People who have not yet applied to the EUSS and whose passport or ID has expired may face problems making their application before the deadline on June 30. Without a valid passport/ID, an online application can’t be made and a paper application must be requested, and the Resolution Centre may ask for written proof from the client’s embassy that no document can be issued before 30 June before they will send a paper application form. Clients should be advised to persevere in contacting both their own embassy and the Resolution Centre and do everything they can to meet the deadline. Locally, help making applications is still available from Citizens Advice BCP .

Court Fees: These have been updated – go to the govt information here.

Events

Reminder: Volunteers Week 1 – 7 June. Information and resources – here.

Scams Awareness Fortnight, 14 – 27 June: Protecting people against scams is more important than ever. Many people are facing issues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – from employment and debt, to housing and health – meaning more people are in vulnerable situations. Scammers are taking advantage of this, so it’s vital people have the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves.

You can sign up for materials from national Citizens Advice here and read more about current scams here.

Benefits Forum – Thursday 15 July. We are planning a virtual Forum to provide updates on benefit issues, with presentations from colleagues from Jobcentre Plus, local authority, Citizens Advice and others. For now – save the date – an invitstion will come out shortly.

Stop Loan Sharks training: Upcoming courses:

  • Could you spot a loan shark? Tuesday 17 August 10.30 – 12. Book here.
  • Changing lives: A loan shark victim’s journey and the part you play. This course follows on from the ‘Could you spot a loan shark’ course. Tuesday 24 August 10.30- 12. Book here.

Research, Reports, etc

DWP customers’ financial vulnerabilities: call for case studies and insight. The DWP’s serious case panel is asking via Rightsnet for case studies to ‘expand our understanding of the financial circumstances that make customers vulnerable, to support internal learning, decision-making and change design’. They are particularly interested in clients with external debt, and how things work when the DWP signpost clients to external agencies for support. Read more here.

ACAS – estimating the costs of workplace conflict: This report uses analysis to map the incidence of conflict across UK workplaces, showing the impact on individuals and their employers, and estimating the overall cost to UK organisations – £28.5 billion a year. The full report can be accessed here, and there is further ACAS commentary on the findings here.

ESA uplift – judicial review: The high court has given two disabled campaigners permission to challenge the Department for Work and Pensions over its failure to offer recipients of so-called legacy benefits the same £20-a-week increase given to those on universal credit. The court will now decide if DWP breached the European Convention on Human Rights by increasing the standard allowance of universal credit by £20-a-week at the start of the pandemic, but not increasing the rate for 1.9 million employment and support allowance (ESA) recipients by the same amount. Read more on the Disability News Service website.

Trussell Trust – State of Hunger report: This report contains many findings, with evidence that benefit issues, life events (eg. unemployment), health/disability and poor levels of social support are key factors that mean people need to use food banks. Read the executive summary here.

Citizens Advice – disability benefits during the pandemic: This blog focuses on remote medical assessments, delays for Work Capability Assessments and wrong decisions following assessments meaning that people have to appeal. It notes that 74% of PIP cases that go to tribunal see the original DWP decision overturned, and for ESA it’s 67%. Read more here.

Citizens Advice press release on the DWP’s ‘trust and protect’ scheme: People who applied for Universal Credit as the Covid pandemic hit could be subject to a benefits check by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This Citizens Advice article sets out what people need to know about the DWP’s Trust and Protect scheme, and the steps they should take to avoid losing out on benefits.People may be contacted via their UC Journal or a phone call and asked to provide additional evidence to support their claim. Read more here.

Stop Loan Sharks – Spring Newsletter: This includes news on recent prosecutions, an item about people being targeted via online dating websites, and link to a vidoe using British Sign Language. Read more here. Also see under Events for training dates.

FCA blog – Hidden harm of Financial Abuse: One in five women and one in seven men has suffered some form of financial abuse typically at the hands of their partner. Like all domestic abuse it is a hidden crisis that goes on behind closed doors, and lockdown, however essential for public health, will have made matters worse for many victims. It is vital that everyone involved in financial services do whatever they can to shine a light on this harm. Read more here.

Social Security – understanding public attitudes: This Fabian Society research into public attitudes to social security following the pandemic reveals a groundswell of support for increasing benefit payments. A citizens’ jury and national poll demonstrated strong public support for increasing benefits for: disabled people, carers of disabled people, young people aged 18 to 24, and lone parents who are in work or looking after young children – together these groups amount to over 4.6 million families. Read more here.

Funding News

Global’s Make Some Noise is inviting UK registered charities that are delivering a key project or service addressing one of the following four key areas to apply for a grant of between £20,000 and £30,000 for a 12 month project:

  • Providing safety and shelter
  • Supporting physical and/or mental health
  • Developing life skills
  • Reducing isolation or improving inclusion

There is particular interest in projects or areas of work that:

  • Address digital inclusion or providing technology-based solutions.
  • Address diversity and equality and supporting minoritised communities.
  • Support mental health and wellbeing.
  • Work to address poverty and deprivation.

Deadline for a stage one expression of interest is 28 May (!). Read more here.

Nationwide Building Society Community Grants: Grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 for projects of either one year or two years. Projects should target one of Nationwide’s three outcomes:

  • Preventing people from losing their home.
  • Helping people in a home.
  • Supporting people to thrive within the home environment.

The funding will support core costs (up to 20% of the grant amount requested); staff and volunteer costs; small-scale capital costs; activity costs; development and capacity building costs ; and building works and refurbishment costs. Closing date 17 June. Read more here.

Common Call Covid Relief Fund: Black-led charities and social enterprises working in communities across the UK can apply for a grant package of £5,000 or £12,500 to help them:

  • Get better informed about their options (moving to new methods of delivery) post-Covid-19.
  • Develop new enterprising activities and earned income strategies.
  • Test the viability of specific propositions.
  • Develop clear implementable action plans for such activity.

The Fund is specifically looking for organisations that are creating impact in underserved communities and providing services to people that have been adversely affected by the Covid crisis in terms of physical health, mental health and/or financial sustainability. The people supported should primarily be people that identify as Black or Mixed with Black. Read more here. Closing date 25 June. Read more here.