GENERAL SERVICE UPDATE
- We have reviewed the structure for the general office working day to align the hours the office is open with paid staff hours. This will allow time for case-checking and follow up work.
- The office will be open to staff from 9am with the Morning Zoom at 9.30am
- The advice session will start at 10am.
- All workers, paid or volunteer, stop work for a half hour break from 12.30 – 1pm. This is important for good physical and mental health and wellbeing. Supervisors will be unavailable during this period.
- The afternoon session will run from 1-4pm with a winding down period from 3.30pm. Doors will close at 4.30pm.
- CHRISTMAS PARTY – Don’t forget your festive fashion for the Christmas Party! The more Santas, snowmen and sparkles the better. For those not driving, you can bring along your own Christmas tipple as alcohol is allowed.
- There will be no Team Meeting in December due to the Christmas Social.
- The next Team Meeting will be at 2:00pm Wednesday 3rd February 2022 at Allendale House.
- We plan to hold team meetings monthly thereafter at 2pm on the first Wednesday of every month, alternating in person meetings with on-line meetings. (All plans are obviously subject to covid restrictions and may need to be adapted).
- Welcome back to Julie B who is joining our new group of trainee Adviceline Assessors.
- We are sorry to be saying goodbye to Bryan Metcalfe, who has been working on Adviceline.
- The training for October was Advancing EDI- Module 1: Introduction to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. This is a brand new module and is MANDATORY training for everyone whether paid or volunteer. This includes receptionists, admin and trustees. Please let Mandi know when you have done this. Thank you to all who have done it so far. If you have not completed it, then please make sure that you do it as soon as possible.
This is a reminder (or news for some) that the training room at Wimborne is being used every Wednesday for volunteer training for the foreseeable future. During December it will be available for general use after 12.15pm and from January after 3.15pm.
- November training is An Introduction to Breathing Space which outlines the new debt process. This is optional and can be found on Skillbook.
- December training is An Introduction to Safeguarding for Local Citizens Advice. This is a new course on Skillbook. This is optional but recommended.
- Debt Unit Supervisor Dorset-wide (not BCP) 29hrs pw. Closing date 2 Dec. See https://docs.google.com/document/d/1H1UuJ3-7NIUQh7DUrvCiSWnU1LMAN5y-2kBYFRV-QIc/edit
- Dorset Inclusivity Officer Advert Nov 21 Final.docx and Dorset Inclusivity Officer JD & Person Spec Nov 21 Final.docx
- BENEFITS – Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has introduced a new feature as part of its online ‘Manage Your Appeal’ (MYA) service that enables all parties to an appeal to upload audio and video evidence. Appellants must register for the service which can be used now for all DWP benefit appeals.
- HOUSING– Possession proceedings Most of the requirements of the temporary modification of the Civil Procedure Rules (PD55C) are coming to an end for claims for possession made before 30 November. However, the rule that a landlord must tell the court what they know about how coronavirus has affected the tenant, and the people they live with, remains in force until 30 June 2022.
Energy Crisis – update
The energy crisis it seems still has some way yet to run. The latest supplier to get into difficulty is BULB, but with 1.7M customers they are far too large for OFGEM to allow them to go into administration and transfer the customers to another company. As such they are now in Special Administration. We are yet to see how this works out in practice. The advice for consumers remains, not to take any action and to wait to find out what happens. They will not be cut off and any credit on the account will continue to be protected.
Warm Home Discount – please help Clients to apply now!
With the FFP project receiving a lot of referrals, please can we ask all advisers and caseworkers to support a client to apply for WHD (£140 credit eligibility varies but broadly UC, PIP, children etc). We remain concerned that many of the schemes could close much earlier this year and we would not want the client to miss out on this while waiting for a referral to FFP.
Please check here to see if the clients supplier offers broad category WHD and if the scheme is still open:
Surviving Winter Grants – still open
Please can you continue to assess any client who is over 60, or over 50 with a health condition for a SW grant. The template for the case write up is on casebook (Manage>Letter templates) and your ASS can remind you how to apply. We have issued 78 grants to date (across Dorset/BCP) which is about the same number as this time last year. Two clients from last year recounted their experience to DCF for this year’s campaign:
If they are below the eligibility for a SW grant, please refer them to FFP as they may be eligible for a different grant. If you are referring them to FFP, please can you make sure you have helped them to apply for the WHD first.
RESEARCH AND CAMPAIGNS
- Michael Tomlinson MP visited the Wimborne office last week. He asked how the pandemic had impacted our service and the problems it had caused our clients. We described the excessive delays in all services, especially benefit administration and the continuing poor quality of disability and capability assessments, leading to unnecessary appeals. We asked that he press for the DWP to eliminate the excessive backlog and improve assessment quality.
We stressed how difficult it is to live on benefits, particularly when there are deductions, and how the hike in energy prices, together with the loss of the £20 UC uplift, was causing extreme hardship. Michael acknowledged that the compensating budget measure of reducing the UC earnings taper did nothing for those on UC who are incapable of work and we asked that the April increase in benefit levels did something to redress this unfairness. We highlighted how the local housing allowance is usually far below the lowest rents available to our clients, leading to further financial hardship. We asked for levels to be set more realistically, perhaps through having smaller broad rental market areas that better reflect local conditions.
He was interested in Zoe’s observation that the welcomed stay in possession proceedings during the pandemic had actually worked to the detriment of a number of tenants. These were those who, without the threat of eviction, allowed their arrears to continue increasing and are now facing the severe consequences.
Michael certainly listened carefully and showed his engagement with the issues by asking searching and relevant questions. Thank you for your evidence forms that have painted a picture of the unfair practices and policies and enabled us to speak with authority to someone with the power to press for improvements.
- To celebrate The International Day of Visibility of Disabled People on Friday 3 December, the Disability Network Group and EDI Team will be hosting an online discussion with Jane Hatton, founder and CEO of disability employment service Evenbreak. Join the event on Friday 3 December from 10am to 11am
Numbers are rising in BCP and Dorset so please take care.
- Although not mandatory, we would encourage the use of lateral flow tests twice a week to help protect each other.
- We have new hospital high-grade air purifiers in both offices now. They clean the air of any Covid particles. The trustees agreed to this expense to protect the health and welfare of our volunteers and paid staff. Please ensure that these are left on day and night.
- Please help by cleaning the area of your workstation, including phone, keyboard etc, using the anti-bacterial sprays and wipes both on arrival and when leaving the office.