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, volunteering, etc

REMINDER: Citizens Advice Central Dorset are currently recruiting for three roles, all with a closing date of 17 February: .

  • Sherborne office Co-ordinator, 21 hours/week, Tues/Weds/Thurs, £14.56 per hour.
  • Advice Session Supervisor at Dorchester office, 7 hours/week, Fridays, £13.57 per hour.
  • Debt Unit Supervisor (home/remote working), 29 hours/week, £13.57 per hour.

Further details and download-able application pack are here.

Dorset Council: Service Manager – Refugee Resettlement Service. Grade: 13 [£41,881-£47,710]. Contract: Fixed term until March 2025 (secondment requests accepted). Closing date: 13 February 2022.

Dorset Council has so far supported over 80 Syrian refugees to resettle in Dorset and has started to welcome Afghan families to the area, who were evacuated from Afghanistan. Each family receives a five or three year tapered support package funded by the Home Office. The council is seeking

  • an experienced leader who can inspire their team, colleagues and our partners
  • passionate about the challenges faced by refugees resettling in the UK
  • enthusiastic about making a real difference to the quality of life for refugee children, young people and their families

Read more here.

STARS (Sexual Trauma and Recovery Service) – support line volunteers: This role involves taking calls on our dedicated Support Line from people looking for confidential listening support, further information, or referral to our other support services. Support Line Listeners must be able to complete three sessions of training (see below) and commit to six hours a month. The support line hours are: Monday 1pm – 3pm, Tuesday 1pm – 3pm, Wednesday and Thursday, 7.30pm – 9.30pm, Friday 1pm – 3pm.

Training dates: 5th March / 12th March / Mentoring period: 2 x listening sessions between the 12th March and 14th May / 14th May. More information here.

Dorset Council – Expressions of Interest Sought – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Reference Group: The council’s vision for the Reference Group is that Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is actively promoted, communicated and managed for both our wider local communities and our internal workforce. Membership will be drawn from the voluntary and community sector and representatives will act as ‘critical friends’ to the council and its partners. The focus of the group will be on strategic policy and service development matters. The group will provide insight and advice and will not represent individual complainants. Read more here, deadline to submit EoI – 18 February 2022.

Information updates

February’s Fact Sheet:

BENEFITS

LHA rates frozen for 2022-21: This is the second year running that rates have been frozen; rates are here.

Proposed HMRC rates: The HMRC has released its proposed Tax Credit, Child Benefit and Guardians Allowance rates for 2022/23 here, reflecting an average 3.1% increase since last year

Benefits for EU Nationals with pre-settled status: Following the Supreme Court’s decision in December 2021, people with pre-settled status who do not have a qualifying right to reside will continue to be unable to access means-tested benefits. Guidance on cases that were stayed pending the outcome of the Fratila appeal is in this CPAG briefing. The Supreme Court’s press release is here. Another useful overview on access to benefits for EEA National is on the NRPF website here.

PIP – new guidance on mental health medication: The latest edition of the DWP’s PIP Assessment Guide contains improved guidance for assessors on the significance of whether or not a claimant with a mental health condition is receiving medication. Assessors often use the fact that a claimant with, for example depression, is not receiving any medication as evidence that their condition must have very little effect on their daily living or mobility. However, the guidance issued by the DWP now points out that the severity of a mental health condition “does not necessarily correspond with the type or dosage of medication that the claimant is receiving”. You’ll find this in section 1.6.36 in the Guide Part 1 here.

EMPLOYMENT

SSP self-certification requirement reverting to 7 days: The temporary scheme whereby you could self-certify for the first 28 days of sickness from 10 December ended on 27 January. The law now reverts back to 7 days before needing a GP fit note. Read more here.

Help with childcare: The Childcare top-up is available as part of the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme. Eligible working families can receive up to £500 every three months (or £1,000 if their child is disabled) towards the cost of accredited holiday clubs, before and after-school clubs, childminders and nurseries, and other accredited childcare schemes. Tax-Free Childcare is available for children aged up to 11, or 17 if the child has a disability. And for every £8 deposited into an account, families will receive an additional £2 in government top-up. read more here.

HELP WITH THE ‘COST OF LIVING CRISIS’

Energy Price Cap: Ofgem announced that the energy price cap will increase for the period 1 April to 30 September 2022. This will mean a household with typical consumption paying by direct debit will pay £1,971 a year, an increase of £693 – 54%. For customers on prepay meters the cap also increased to £2,017. There is a press release, further explanation for consumers, and information on help with bills.

Govt support with energy bills; This includes up to £350 to help with the cost of living, following the rise to the energy price cap. All domestic electricity customers will get £200 off their bills, and 80% of households will receive a £150 Council Tax rebate from April. Factsheets on the support available are here.

In addition to this, many of the largest suppliers have agreed to Energy UK’s Vulnerability Commitment. This includes:

  • never knowingly disconnecting a vulnerable customer at any time of year
  • only using High Court Enforcement Officers to recover debts where appropriate for a vulnerable customer taking consideration of any wider vulnerabilities that may be exacerbated by Court enforcement action
  • having a strategy and effective arrangements in place for signposting and referring customers to relevant third-party support, including debt advice agencies.

Ofcom – cheaper broadband and phone packages: Social tariffs can provide a safety net for eligible households who might be struggling to afford their broadband or phone services. Ofcom has a list of cheaper deals here.

OTHER

Local Energy news – from Ridgewater Energy:

  • The ECHO (Emergency Central Heating Offer) scheme has now closed for this year. It is anticipated that new funding will be confirmed and released in Autumn. Any existing referrals already in the system, should still receive assistance, but cannot be guaranteed.
  • LEAP is still running, assisting in helping to reduce energy bills by reviewing energy use & referring for other schemes, providing hints & tips and fitting free, energy saving devices such as LED lightbulbs & draught proofing.
  • Healthy Homes Dorset helps residents to keep warm and healthy in their homes by providing access to free energy advice and funding for energy saving measures, such as cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, heating measures and enabling works.
  • BCP Council has announced a brand new scheme to help residents reduce their energy consumption, whilst taking action against climate change and tackling the Climate and Ecological Emergency. Read more here.

Wessex Water Partnerhub: Don’t forget, lots of useful resources are available here, including social media resources, lealfets,, and a 3 minute video on affordability schemes.

Digital Foundation Skills course: Training in Poole or Bournemouth to help people learn how to use a laptop and get online safely. Next course starts 21 February. Read more:

Events

Children’s Mental Health Week, 7 – 13 February 2022: This year’s theme is Growing Together. We’re encouraging children (and adults) to consider how they have grown and how they can help others to grow. Free resources for use in school, for home-schooling, online lessons or independent learning, are here.

Student Volunteering Week, 7 – 13 February 2022: The Student Volunteering Network is a peer support network for anyone employed by a UK higher or further education institution to support student volunteering activity. Student Volunteering Week is delivered through a partnership between Student Volunteering Network and Student Hubs. SVW provides a platform for students, universities, colleges, students’ unions, charities and social enterprises to showcase innovative projects and events. Resources are here.

Time to talk day: Although this wa slast week (3 February) there are some information……The day is about creating supportive communities by having conversations with family, friends, or colleagues about mental health. We all have mental health. By talking about it, we can support ourselves and others. See more on teh Mind website.

Communities Webinar – Living Safely with COVID-19: Wednesday 2nd March 2022 at 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. Run by the cabinet Office who say: “We would like to thank you, our Community leaders for the vital role you have played during the pandemic. We would now like to invite you to attend the next in our series of Community webinars…….During this session we are going to be look at some of the myths and misinformation that exist around Covid and how to tackle these in your communities”. To get a link to register contact: DHSC

Report, Research, Blogs etc

Citizens Advice press releases: Two recent releases report on a surge in demand for advice [‘Red Alert’ warning] and a critique of the support package announced for energy bills [‘strange, complicated, untargeted’].

Disability benefits – Work & Pensions Committee publishes report: The Work and Pensions Committee has used parliamentary powers to publish a Government-commissioned report into disabled people’s experiences of the benefits system that the DWP had consistently refused to make public. Th e report followed a research project led by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), which interviewed disabled people about their experiences of receiving PIP, ESA and Universal Credit. It reveals that people who did not have income outside the benefits system “reported that they were often unable to meet essential day to day living costs”, such as food, rent and heating. Read more here.

Gaps in the network: Impact of outreaches and temporary closures on post office access. This new Citizens Advice report reveals that 1,292 post offices in Britain were temporarily closed in September 2021, nearly twice as many as the 662 in September 2017. The trends in post office closures and outreaches are leading to growing cracks in coverage. There is a particular problem in rural locations where people and small businesses rely on post offices the most. Read more here.

Funding news

Govt announcement – £44 million Dormant Assets funding unlocked for charities and social enterprises: Communities and good causes across England have been allocated an additional £44 million through the Dormant Assets Scheme.The funding will be used to tackle youth unemployment, expand access to investment for charities and social enterprises, and help improve the availability of fair, affordable loans to people in vulnerable circumstances.

The Dormant Assets Scheme releases funds from dormant bank and building society accounts, which are accounts that have been open for 15 years, but during that period no transactions have been carried out. The £44 million funding will be distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund. Read more here.

ANN RYLANDS SMALL DONATIONS: For many years the Trust has sought to encourage the endeavours of smaller charities providing practical and emotional support to people with – or at high risk of – physical or mental ill health, people living with a disability, and their families and carers. The programme was relaunched in January 2022 to enable the Trust to increase support for smaller charities whose work aligns with our mission to improve provision in health and care. In a typical year the Trust will provide donations to more than 300 charities and while the amounts are relatively modest many charities have received regular donations. In 2021 the Trust awarded a total of £418,200 across 336 organisations.

They accept applications from charities which offer practical and emotional support to improve health and care for:

  • Older people
  • People with disabilities or living with serious illness
  • People needing palliative and end of life care, or
  • People facing challenges with mental health, social exclusion or homelessness

There is a rolling programme for accepting applications. Read more here.

Lloyds Bank Foundation is supporting small local charities tackling complex social issues across England and Wales. Charities with an annual income of between £25,000 and £1 million can still apply for unrestricted grants of up to £50,000 and accompanying development support from the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales.
Two-year funding is available for core organisational costs which are related to the day-to-day running of the charity. Funding is also available for costs associated with the direct delivery of the charity’s work. Applications can be submitted at any time. Read more here.