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

You can view previous editions of the E news HERE.

Don’t forget to book you place on the Advice Dorset Partnership’s Cost of Living Crisis briefing – Thursday 30 June 3 – 5,via zoom, book here.

Jobs

Steps2Wellbeing are recruiting additional Employment Advisors to work in North Dorset, to provide dedicated employment support for residents. Due to the nature of the job the candidate must be willing to drive to local towns to get a better understanding of the local labour market and develop community links.The role is predominately telephone based supporting individuals looking to return to work or to retain their current employment. However, there will be occasions when you will be required to see clients face to face at various NHS sites within North Dorset.

For further details go to their website, or contact: Rachael Quick, Senior Employment Advisor, rachael.quick@nhs.net, 07825 174103.

Citizens Advice Bridport – Volunteer Co-ordinator: CA Bridport are seeking a highly motivated, strong team player with excellent interpersonal and organisational skills. You will have experience of supporting, mentoring, or coaching individuals to develop their skills and capabilities. You will work closely with the training supervisor and management team to support volunteer trainees with their development and learning needs. You will be effective in helping us to promote the value and benefits of volunteering for Citizens Advice and to ensure that we have sufficient numbers of well-trained volunteers to deliver an effective service. 7.5 hours/week; £25,916 (gross FTE), £5253 actual. Read more here. Advert below.

Information updates

Cost of living

Household Support Fund – local information: Both local councils (BCP and Dorset) are working in partnership with Citizens Advice to administer the fund. Applications opened on Monday 6 June for eligible pensioners and working age people. The support will be provided via supermarket vouchers. Vouchers will be issued to residents with savings of less than £10,000 who meet the following criteria. You must be either:

  • a pensioner in receipt of Pension Credit
  • of working age and in receipt of a means tested benefit or  
  • a pensioner or working age resident not in receipt of a means tested benefit who is in fuel poverty

Residents can apply online or visit their local Citizens Advice office to complete their application. Read more – BCP and Dorset.

Cost of Living Payments: The government has confirmed the first instalment of the £650 Cost of Living Payment will be issued to certain benefit claimants from 14 July. The updated guidance is here.

For those claiming DWP benefits, the first payment of £326 will be paid from 14 July, with most payments made by the end of July, and the second payment of £324 will be in Autumn 2022.

For those on Tax Credits, the first payment will be made from Autumn 2022 and the second payment in Winter 2022. The qualifying dates for the second payment haven’t been announced. If a person receives tax credits from HMRC and a means-tested benefit from the DWP at the same time, their payment will be from the DWP.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and cost of living expectations: Where people are struggling due to the cost of living crisis, the FCA expects firms to:

  • provide appropriate care and support especially for vulnerable people
  • tailor forbearance
  • help people access free debt advice
  • ensure charges are fair and only cover costs
  • consider financial pressures in affordability assessments


The existing coronavirus support guidance is applicable to the cost of living crisis. Read the FCA’s recent press release here.

Benefits

Managed migration to UC: This began on 9 May 2022 and is currently only happening in the Bolton and Medway districts. However, DWP and HMRC have begun to send letters to legacy benefit and tax credit claimants informing them that they will be moved to UC at some point in the next few years. It’s important to be aware that these letters are not migration notices and clients should only move to UC voluntarily if they will be better off. Read the guidance from Citizens Advice.

Housing

‘Benefits to bricks’: The government announced several measures related to housing, including giving tenants renting their homes from housing associations the right to buy them outright. Several measures will be delivered by DWP as follows:

  • Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for first time buyers – housing support contributions towards mortgage payments for first-time buyers
  • Universal Credit: change capital rules so those saving for a deposit are not penalised, aiding aspiration
  • Changes to Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) entitlement: SMI entitlement starting at three months, with eligibility not tied to zero earnings
  • The Housing Support Initiative (HSI): to explore the possibility of a pilot to bring forward new supply of social homes with right to buy potential.

Read the press release here.

Employment

Fit notes can be signed by other health care professionals: New legislation will come into force in July to enable a wider range of healthcare professionals to sign fit notes, including physiotherapists and pharmacists. This follows on from the introduction of digital fit notes in April, and is another example of government measures intended to reduce the pressure on GPs. Read the press release here.

Travel disruption and getting to work: Technically if an employee is not able to perform their work due to travel disruption, then the employer has no duty to pay them. It is a far more complex situation if the employer closes the workplace so that no work is available. Read the govt guidance here.

Other

Stop Loan Sharks: The England Illegal Money Lending Team, also known as Stop Loan Sharks, has a useful set of FAQs here. Their specialist team of investigators and LIASE officers work together throughout the country to stop loan sharks lending illegally and to prosecute them.

Further funding extends Family Mediation Voucher Scheme to March 2023: The government has announced further investment into family mediation vouchers. The scheme was introduced in March 2021 and offers separating couples a £500 voucher to pay for mediation services to help them reach agreement on disputes relating to children, including financial disputes. The vouchers are non means tested and the extra funding more than doubles the original investment into mediation services. Legal aid is also available for financially eligible clients to cover the costs of the mediation process.  Read the Govt guidance here.

Holiday-related fraud: Action Fraud have reported that holiday and travel related fraud has increased substantially (more than 120%)  in the financial year 2021-2022  compared to the previous one. Read ABTAs tips for avoiding holiday fraud here.

Events

BRIEFING – Cost of Living Crisis, how can I help my service users – Thursday 30 June, 3 – 5pm: This event via zoom will include updates on the government and other support available, how to make the most of welfare benefits, support for older people, news from the Let’s Talk Money Project and Faithworks’ Community Money Advice service….and more. It’s free so book now on eventbrite.

Scams Awareness fortnight – 13 to 26 June: The annual Scams Awareness campaign aims to create a network of confident, alert consumers who know what to do when they spot a scam. Citizens Advice runs the Scams Awareness campaign in close collaboration with the Consumer Protection Partnership. This brings together key partners in the consumer landscape to identify, prioritise and coordinate collective action to tackle detriment. Partners include Trading Standards service and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). More information and resources are here. There is also a recent blog – 3 types of scams you need to know abouthere.

Policy in Practice webinar – How to identify and support Just About Managing households using data: Date change – this webinar is now on Weds 6 July, 10.30 – 11.45. “We know that one in five UK adults (10.3 million people) have less than £100 in savings, one in ten have no savings at all and more than a quarter have less than £500. Many are one broken appliance away from slipping into debt. Local authorities want to help families who are struggling now to avoid a crisis down the line yet they have little or no visibility over people who are not already claiming benefits. Now though, analysis of other datasets can be used to get a clearer picture of families who are just about managing.” Register here.

Reports, research etc

CPAG Briefing – The impact and legality of the DWP’s reverification of UC claims: At the start of the pandemic, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) relaxed some evidence checks for people making a universal credit (UC) claim to provide quicker access to benefits. In January 2021, the DWP began reverifying the details of claims made while evidence checks were eased. This has resulted in some claimants being asked to pay back the entirety of their UC award.

The way that the DWP has attempted to reverify claims has made it difficult for claimants to provide the required evidence, particularly those with complex needs and those with limited digital literacy. The DWP requests evidence from claimants to verify their eligibility for UC via the online journal, even from claimants who are no longer in receipt of UC and no longer need to check their journal. Some claimants only became aware that there was an issue with their UC claim when they received a letter from DWP Debt Management saying they owed thousands of pounds, months after the DWP decided to revise their benefit award.

The DWP have now announced that it will establish a team of 2,000 staff who will review 2 million UC claims over the next five years, including those made during the pandemic. In light of the evidence CPAG has collected, they consider it is essential that the DWP addresses the issues with its reverification process before proceeding with any further case reviews. Read more here.

Citizens Advice research on tenants and energy costs: The 20% of people who live in rented homes consistently experience worse outcomes in the retail energy market than other tenure types, including disproportionate levels of fuel poverty. Due to their circumstances and often a lack of control over their energy supply, tenants are particularly at risk from poor outcomes. For example, in the current market this lack of control will put over 585,000 renting households at risk of missing out on support, including the Warm Home Discount and forthcoming government energy rebate if they are not the billpayer. Citizens Advice has just published their research into this area – private rented sector barriers to energy market engagement – read more here.

Law Society report on ‘spike’ in no-fault divorce: Newly published statistics for April 2021 to April 2022, show more than 12,000 new divorce applications were filed as ‘no-fault’ divorce came into effect. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 means divorcing couples are no longer required to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage. There were 12,978 new divorce applications in April 2022. 10,207 of which were sole applications and 2,771 were joint applications.* By comparison, there were 6,764 digital divorce applications in April 2021. Read more here.

Government publishes White Paper – A Fairer Private Rented Sector: This sets out proposals, in a 12 point ‘plan of action’ to improve security and conditions in private rented housing. This includes a proposal to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and make all tenancies periodic: there will be no fixed-term tenancies. A tenancy will only be ended by the tenant (giving 2 months notice), or where the landlord has a valid ground for possession. This increases security and so better empowers tenants to challenge poor standards. It should also reduce the costs of regular moving, whilst allowing tenants some flexibility if they need to leave their tenancy. Legislation will also make blanket bans on renting to families with children or who are in receipt of benefits illegal, following the approach taken by the courts in recent cases. Read more here. The Renters Reform Bill will go through Parliament in the next session ie. by May 2023.

Funding

Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner – Operation Relentless Community Fund: The PCC Grant Scheme is a financial resource provided by the Police & Crime Commissioner to support activities in Dorset that contribute to the delivery of the Police and Crime Plan 2021-2029. The Plan concentrates on six key themes:

  • Cut Crime and Antisocial Behaviour
  • Make Policing More Visible and Connected
  • Fight Violent Crime and High Harm
  • Fight Rural Crime
  • Put Victims and Communities First
  • Make Every Penny Count


Grants of between £100 and £5,000 are available, and applicants must evidence how they will contribute to a reduction in ASB and/or increase public feeling of safety/reassurance. Closing date 11 July. Read more here.

Dorset Council Community and Culture Project Fund -round 3 closes 27 June! This is a project and event fund for arts, museums, heritage, community, physical activity and play activities. This fund is a small project grant, funding up to 80% of total project costs. We are open to all applications that meet our criteria. We offer from £1,000 to £5,000 to support the council to meet its core priorities. All applications are welcome but we will give priority to projects benefiting marginalised people. Read more here.