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

You can view previous editions of the E news HERE.

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Information Updates

JULY’S Fact Sheet:

COVID RELATED

Covid 19 Summer response – Roadmap: Here is the Govt guidance as at 5 July. Also: details of what you can and cannot do.

Test and Trace Support Payments: These will continue to be available until September 2021 and can be claimed if for example a parent has to stay at home because a child has to stay home from school and self-isolate. Read more here.

BENEFITS

Personal Independence Payments: The DWP have been going through PIP claims as part of a LEAP review. The review looks at awarding points for PIP mobility with regard to overwhelming psychological distress. The original case found that the DWP had been misapplying the law, and that:

  • Claimants should have been awarded the standard rate of PIP mobility if, because of overwhelming psychological distress, they needed someone with them to follow the route of an unfamiliar journey.
  • Claimants should have been awarded the enhanced rate if they could not follow the route of a familiar journey without having someone with them for the same reason.

So far, 900,000, out of approximately 1.6 million MH cases have been assessed, but only 3,700 payments have been made. The organisation Benefits and Work have sought legal advice and are now looking into whether the review is unlawful. They are also looking for claimants who have received a LEAP review letter in the last 3 months. Read more here.

UC Deductions for fines: Following a Judicial Review the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has set the fines deduction rate to 5% of the UC standard allowance, down from 25%. The Court Service will apply this change from the next date the defendant is due an award of Universal Credit and will take about a month to be applied to all claims. They’ve also said, that they expect there to be a drop in the number of defendants experiencing hardship as a result of the amount of money being deducted. The practical effect for defendants is that the deduction will be around £17-£21 for an individual and £24- £30 where there is a joint claim

HOUSING

Govt TOOL on disrepair for private tenants: The tool, available on Gov.uk, asks a series of questions to determine tenancy status and disrepair issues and will then provide information on remedies available.

DEBT

Debt Relief Orders – reminder: The eligibility criteria have recently changed as follows, and a DRO is a way of dealing with debts if you:

  • owe £30,000 or less
  • don’t own your own home
  • don’t have other assets or things of value
  • don’t have much spare income

The fee is still £90. Read more on the Citizens Advice website. The Govt guidance for debt advisers has been updated here.

Breathing Space – Reminder: Due to the timing of how a client’s details are entered onto the Insolvency Service register, be aware that the Breathing Space will start the day after you submit the application. The Govt guide for money advisers has been updated as of 28 June here.

HMRC briefing – collecting tax debts as we emerge from coronavirus: This says – “At all times, we will take an understanding and supportive approach to dealing with those who have tax debts or are concerned about their ability to pay their tax.” The briefing sets out:

  • what they’ll do when a client has a tax debt
  • what support they’ll give to clients
  • what they’ll do when a client does not get in touch or refuses to pay

Read more here.

IMMIGRATION

EUSS – late applications: As the 30 June deadline has now passed, this information from the Home Office makes clear the implications:

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and their family members who was resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, but did not make an application to the EUSS by the deadline of 30 June 2021, your rights in UK law are not protected. This includes your rights to live, work, study and access benefits and services in the UK. Failure to apply to the EUSS may negatively impact your eligibility to work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK, and to rent a property in England.

It does go on to say The Home Office will take a flexible and pragmatic approach to accepting late applications and will look for reasons to grant applications, not to refuse them. However anyone in this situation should check their options quickly: there is information on the Citizens Advice website, and don’t forget there is caseworker help available from Citizens Advice BCP.

….and implications for those on benefits: The DWP has written to local authority Revs & Benefits teams to confirm that extra statutory payments are to be paid during a grace period to benefit claimants who failed to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by 30 June 2021.  EEA nationals who have not yet applied for or been granted Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status will be persons without immigration status and not entitled to benefit. A data matching exercise has been done and the Home Office will write to all EEA nationals who have still not applied to prompt them to do so or risk their benefit payments being stopped.  The payments allow benefit payment to continue for existing claimants for a short period of time, after the end of the grace period, whilst DWP contacts people affected in September 2021. Benefit will be suspended if there is no EUSS application made within one month, but DWP will carry out ‘business as usual’ processes looking at potential claimant vulnerability before stopping benefit.  Here s the letter;

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Domestic Abuse Act 2021: From 5 July 2021 victims who are homeless due to domestic abuse will be prioritised for accommodation from their council. Councils will have to find accommodation for people made homeless through domestic abuse, helping to ensure victims do not remain with their abuser for fear of not having a roof over their head. Previously, victims had to be assessed as being ‘vulnerable’ as a result of domestic abuse to be identified as having a priority need. As such, these provisions are especially beneficial to those who are fleeing domestic abuse and do not have dependent children. Other provisions of the new law come into effect at a later date. Read the Govt press release here.

Domestic Violence – Survivors Welfare Advice Project: SWAP is a free nationwide service run by CPAG advising professionals working with domestic abuse survivors on issues relating to their benefit claims and entitlement. The project will also gather evidence of systematic problems with the welfare system faced by survivors to help inform our policy and legal work. A helpline and email service available – details here. SWAP can advise on:

  • Issues relating to joint claims
  • ‘Right to reside’ and eligibility
  • Managing benefits after fleeing domestic abuse
  • Any other welfare rights matters

OTHER

Covid Vaccine Passport Scam: People receive an email inviting them to apply for a ‘Digital Coronavirus Passport’ via a link. The link takes victims to a fake site that requests payment for the service, and collects both personal and financial details.

TV Licensing update: More than 9 in 10 of over 75 households have now made arrangements for a free or paid licence or updated TV Licensing on changes in their circumstances. However 260,000 people still haven’t made arrangements and they are saying: the extended transition period we put in place due to Covid will end on 31 July 2021. And in line with general policy, anyone who watches or records live TV programmes on any channel, or downloads or watches BBC programmes on iPlayer, must be covered by a valid TV licence.Payment plans are still available to help spread the cost, and information about Pension Credit and how to check whether someone is eligible for a free licence is included on all of TV Licensing’s mailings. No one needs to leave their home to get set-up. Arrangements can be made via post, online or via a dedicated phone line on 0300 790 6151 (until 31 July).

Events

Benefits Forum – Thursday 15 July, 9.45 – 1 via zoom. Tickets are still available for this FREE event, here. A zoom invitation will be sent out to those who have registered by Tuesday 13 July.

Introduction to Employment Law. The Employment Legal Advice Network have arranged for Allen & Overy to deliver a practical training session on the basics of employment law. Ideal for volunteers in the not for profit sector or advisers wanted to refresh their knowledge, the training covers most of the key issues you are likely to face when supporting clients with employment law queries. Tuesday 20 July 10 -11. Register here for this free event.

Reports, research, blogs etc

Scams Awareness – Which? Conversation: A guest post by Citizens Advice features learnings from scams over the past year. Read the post here.

Benefits Training Co: For a good overview of current benefit issues go to their July News.

Roadblock to recovery: Why the rules in Universal Credit are creating barriers to work. This Citizens Advice report says that despite Govt efforts to reduce long-term unemployment, 3 aspects of Universal Credit need fixing to ensure an equitable recovery from this crisis:

  • Paying childcare costs upfront
  • Widening access to the work allowance for disabled people
  • Ensuring a more flexible approach to conditionality

Domestic abuse: Support for victims and survivors. This House of Commons research paper explains the support available for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. This includes support from housing and social security agencies, and specialist domestic abuse support services such as Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs) and refuges. Read more here.

New Employment ‘watchdog’: The Govt announced in June a new enforcement agency which will have responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers. Read their press release here. Citizens Advice welcomes this, but asks that it be set as as quickly as possible.

Funding news

Comic Relief and the Ministry of Justice are inviting proposals from organisations supporting survivors / victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, who are led ‘by / and for’ communities facing racial inequality, disabled people or LGBTQ+ communities. Funds will support activities and offer wrap-around support which improve digital and remote capacity, provide continuity in support, and enhance future sustainability.

Not-for-profit organisations with an income of between £75,000 and £10 million can apply. There is a total funding pot of £2 million. It is expected that around 25 grants of between £5,000 and £70,000 will be awarded. Successful applicants will also receive digital and technical coaching and expertise from a support partner. The funding is for proposals that address the programme’s outcomes which are to increase organisations digital capacity through:

  • Building additional capability– this could cover updating digital infrastructure e.g. CRM, purchasing hardware and equipment, website design, online chat functions and signposting.
  • Scoping need – working to plan, design and test digital and remote provision, in able to pilot new ways of working, supporting more survivors and victims, while gathering evidence and rationale to develop this beyond the funding period, and strengthen the prospect of future funding

The funding is available for a maximum of six months, and funds must be spent by 31 March 2022. Comic Relief will hold Q&A sessions via Zoom to provide support during the application window. The deadline for applications is 12 noon on 20 July 2021. Read more here.

Low Carbon Dorset: Small or medium sized enterprises, public sector organisations, voluntary or community organisations, and registered charities in Dorset, Bournemouth or Poole can apply for funding to help deliver renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Low Carbon Dorset provides free technical advice and grants for up to 40% of project costs, between £5,000 and £250,000, depending on the project and sector.

Read more here.

BBC Children in Need – main grant programme: Registered charities and not-for-profit organisations in the UK can apply if they are supporting children and young people of 18 years and under who are experiencing disadvantage through:

  • Illness, distress, abuse or neglect.
  • Any kind of disability.
  • Behavioural or psychological difficulties.
  • Living in poverty or situations of deprivation.

Grants of over £10,000 per year are available to support projects for up to three years. The average grant is likely to be around £30,000 per year, and applications cannot be made for more than £40,000 per year. Applications can be for:

  • Project delivery (including staffing and salary costs)
  • Creative solutions to deliver much needed services
  • Organisational costs to support stability and adaptation. (Including the day-to-day running costs of an organisation as opposed to specific project costs)

Closing date 23 August 201. Read more here.