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.

Jobs

Dorset Community Action – Supporting Enterprise Coach: £26,574 to £28,403 per annum, full time, fixed term contract until 30th April 2023. This post will be funded by European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund as part of the Building Better Opportunities programme. The coach will:

  • Engage, and support the hardest to reach unemployed or economically inactive people through this innovative programme, including mental health, learning disabilities, LGB&T, BME and equalities groups.
  • Use your facilitation skills to deliver the “Team Challenge” course to groups of participants based in their community setting. The “Challenge” will include assessment of a community need, design an enterprise around that need, resource and launch the enterprise.
  • Deliver one to one self-employment and enterprise support to enable participants to develop their enterprise ideas, and skills in business planning, budgeting, sales, and start-up funding.

Closing date 28 March. Read more here.

Information updates

COVID

New rules from 24 February here: Summary below. To read more detail, go to Living with Covid.

  • The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test will be removed. Adults and children who test positive will be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 5 days, and then until they have received two negative tests on consecutive days
  • Fully vaccinated close contacts and people under 18 will not have to test daily for 7 days, and close contacts who are not fully vaccinated will not have to self isolate 
  • Self isolation supports, national funding for practical support and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available
  • Routine contact tracing will end
  • The legal obligation for individuals to tell their employers when they are required to self isolate will end [NB: this does not prevent employers from having their own policies about covid testing and/or self-isolation on health and safety grounds.]

SSP payments for self-isolation to cease: The prime minister has indicated that SSP payments will continue to be available for those who cannot work due to coronavirus for ‘another month’ after the legal requirement to self-isolate is removed on 24 February.

H&S guidance: This link is to the latest information on the Health & Safety Executive website – as at 21 February, and will be updated again on 28 February.

BENEFITS

DWP guidance on overpayment recovery: This has recently been amended with updates to Chapter 8 (regarding write-off and waiver), following a ‘change’ to the waiver policy. The guidance now appears to give more discretion to DWP to ‘waive’ recovery in a wider range of circumstances, and outlines in more detail the types of evidence which can be used to support a waiver request. Previously it only referred to treasury guidance on ‘whether recovery is detrimental to the health or welfare of the debtor or a member of their family’, but now appears much more weighted to full circumstances and gives a lot of cues on what to provide. Advisers may find this useful, especially since a recent DWP statement on UK Parliament website confirms that only 91 UC official error waiver requests were made in the 12 months up to January 2022. Read the updated guidance here.

EMPLOYMENT

Care workers and covid vaccinations: On 11 November 2021 there was a new law introduced on vaccination requirements for staff in Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered care homes in England. On 31 January 2022 the government announced their plan to remove the law on vaccination requirements (‘vaccination as a condition of deployment’) in CQC-registered care homes. The government’s advice is that employers should not give any new dismissal notices to staff because they’re not fully vaccinated. This change was subject to a short consultation (ended 16 February) and there needs to be Parliamentary approval. ACAS has a good summary here.

FINANCE

Buy Now Pay Later products: Theses products are unregulated, but the FCA has reviewed their terms and conditions using the Consumer Rights Act. As a result of this Clearpay, Klarna, Laybuy and Openpay have agreed to change terms in their consumer contracts to make them fairer, easier to understand and better reflect how consumers use them in practice. Terms must:

  • Set out what happens if a consumer cancels the contract for purchases funded by the BNPL loan
  • Make it clear that they will provide advance notice to consumers if they intend to terminate/suspend their account
  • Not prevent a consumer from being able to offset/deduct money owed to them by the firm from instalments

Clearpay, Laybuy and Openpay have agreed to refund customers who have been charged late payment fees in specific circumstances. Read more here.

OTHER

Discounted Broadband Packages: These packages are available to about 4.2 million households who receive Universal Credit. Ofcom have found that only 55,000 homes have taken advantage of these social tariffs – read the full list on their website here.

Energy: Whoop Energy and Xcel Power Ltd have ceased trading, and their customers are being transferred to Yü Energy Retail Limited. You can check who’s taken over your energy supply if you supplier has gone bust on Ofgem’s website.

New Parking Code: The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published a new Private Parking Code of Conduct; operators managing parking on private land will need to comply with the new code by the end of 2023. The measures include banning the use of misleading terms, including ‘fine’ or ‘penalty’, or making documents resemble a local authority penalty charge notice (PCN). There will be a fixed scale of charges depending on the parking infringement of £50, £70 or £100 in England (outside London). Read more here.

Events, training

CAN – funding training: Two NCVO courses are being put on by CAN. Writing Successful bids (28 February) and Outcomes and impact measurement (1 March); £5 to members £10 to non members.

Local Government Association – Adult Safeguarding and Homelessness Webinar: Monday 28 February 2022, 2pm – 4pm. This is the first of a series of webinars designed to focus on safeguarding people experiencing homelessness. This webinar will focus on identifying the risks and supporting young people experiencing homelessness. It will open a theme that will run through all three webinars, namely learning from people with lived experience. Here the focus will be on involving people with lived experience in evaluation of services in Oxfordshire. Book here.

Public Law Project training – Fairness in Welfare Benefits: Online event – Thursday 10 March 9 – 3.30pm. A day to up skill advisers, lawyers and social policy researchers on the use of (mostly) non-litigation remedies in public law to challenge DWP decision making and get fair outcomes. Cost – £42. Read the full programme and book here.

Reports, research, blogs, newsletters etc

Stop Loan Sharks winter newsletter: This issue includes an update on the latest loan shark arrests, court cases and projects that are helping to combat illegal money lending in communities. Two brave clients have also shared their harrowing experiences of using loan sharks in a bid to encourage others to seek help. Follow this link or read it below; the IMLT’s Summary Report for 2021 is also uploaded.

High Court dismisses challenge not to extend £20 uplift to legacy benefits: From 30 March 2020 to 5 October 2021 the standard allowance for universal credit (UC) was increased by approximately £20 a week. Four claimants in receipt of legacy benefits claimed that the failure to extend this increase to means-tested legacy benefits constituted unjustified discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights. The High Court (EWHC 351) dismissed the judicial review challenge finding that whilst this treatment this did amount to indirect discrimination, on the grounds of disability, it was justified by a legitimate aim. The HC accepted the Secretary of State’s justification which was that the increase was intended for new benefit claimants, directly impacted by Covid, to ‘cushion the sudden impact of loss of employment or reduced employment’.  Read a summary on rightsnet.

Citizens Advice reports on Royal Mail’s poor performance over Christmas period: Almost 15 million people (28%) were left waiting for post over the Christmas period, according to recent Citizens Advice research. Of those, over half (54%) reported going at least a week without letters. As a result, 2.5 million people missed important documents, health appointments, or were unable to pay a fine or bills, sometimes resulting in further penalties. Read the press release here.

More support for victims of domestic violence: The Govt has announced £125 million further funding to local authorities to make sure safe accommodation spaces, such as refuges and shelters, can provide those experiencing domestic abuse with services including healthcare, social workers and benefits. Read theri press release here. This also includes links to two current consultations: The first will consider removing Local Connection Tests when applying for social housing, to allow those having experienced abuse to make a fresh start in a new area. The second considers the impact of the law on joint tenancies on victims of domestic abuse in the social rented sector.

CPAG – Rising Living Costs and Universal Credit: In April, UC will increase by 3.1 per cent, just as inflation is predicted to peak at 7.25 per cent. This means the value of UC for families with children will fall by around £570 a year, on average. The 180,000 families subject to the benefit cap will experience an ever greater fall in the value of their UC. Without further government action, out-of-work families with children will be the furthest away from being able to afford an acceptable standard of living since records began in 2008. Access CPAG’s Nothing left to cut back briefing here.

CPAG Report – Making Adjustments? The experiences of universal credit claimants with mental health problems: People experiencing mental ill health face specific problems claiming support from our social security system. This is particularly the case with universal credit (UC) because it is fully digital, and because it is the same benefit for all working-age people, whether or not you have a mental health problem. Read more here.

Funding News

Dorset Council’s Organisational Support Revenue Fund (OSRF) will provide core revenue support to local community organisations that address the needs of disadvantaged, under served and marginalized communities in Dorset.  Social, voluntary and community sector organisations that support the needs of vulnerable people in the community and provide activities, particularly emergency, health and social care provision can apply for a grant of between £5,000 – £10,000 per annum for up to two years to help with their running costs.

All applicants must demonstrate how they meet at least one of Dorset Council’s Corporate priorities in their application and show how their work provides support to projects that focus on marginalised and disadvantaged people.  

Applications must be submitted on the council’s online application form.  Further details including eligibility, exclusions, funding criteria, closing date (1 April) and guidance on completing your online  application form can be found on the council’s website – here.

LGBT+ Futures Equity Fund: Funding is intended to provide support to LGBT+ organisations which are intersectional in focus, with priority given to work being undertaken with the following under-represented communities:

  • Deaf and/or Disabled LGBT+ people.
  • LBT+ women.
  • LGBT+ people from Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicities (BAME) and LGBT+ people of colour.
  • Older LGBT+ people.
  • Trans and Non-Binary people.

Grants of between £100 and £25,000 are available and funding is intended to be as flexible as possible. Grants can cover both project and core funding, providing organisations can demonstrate they are making a meaningful impact in their targeted communities. All grants must be fully spent by August 2023.

Deadline to apply is 30 October 2022. Read more here.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) builds better lives by enabling opportunity, advancing healthcare and education and promoting independence for freemasons, their families and the wider community. Their current funding categories are:

  • Creating the best start in life for disadvantaged children and young people
  • Reducing isolation in later life
  • PhD studentships in medical research
  • Hospice support

For the small grant programme, grants can be £1,000 to £5,000 per year for up to 3 years. Large grants usually range from £10,000 to £60,000. They can be awarded over one to three years. Read more here.