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17th October 2018

OPEN MEETING 2018     (Dorford Centre, 50 people attended)

Speakers : Daniel Cadisch and Helen from CA – Dorchester Citizens Advice

Subject : ‘Universal Credit – The Story So Far’

Chair: Dr Margaret Barker

After a short period of silent reflection Margaret gave a brief summary of the DPA annual report, picking out the fact that, since its financial records began in 1997 there had been a midsummer celebration of £100,000 had been given out in grants to local people in need. All of this money had been raised locally either from the churches, local trust funds, generous work by local Mayors and from fund raising events. The individual grant had been increased from £150 to £200 and in the last financial year the total amount of money given out had risen significantly. In the same period of over 20 years, £60,000 had also been given out in supermarket vouchers distributed to local helping organisations. The Trustee body had been extended from 3 to 5 members, 3 of whom now take turns on a rota to manage the 4 – 5 applications for grants per week that come in.
In the past year Second Chance furniture had closed down and their reserve fund of about £18,000 had, with Charity Commission approval, been donated to DPA for assisting those clients in need of furniture.

Daniel Cadisch thanked Margaret and the (Dorchester Poverty Action) DPA – team for all their support and help. He described a superb partnership that made a difference to people’s lives. DPA enabled his team to get help for a person in dire need – when there was no other available.

Universal Credit was launched in 2013. The aim was to simplify the benefits system and to encourage more people to work instead of claiming benefits. This turned out to be much more complicated than before.

The first basic problem was that the system was to be digital – which meant that all claims had to be done via a computer tax network (RTI). As many people did not have access to a computer or a Smartphone they would have to go to a library or to CAB for help. And all personal information had to be collected and put in before a claim could be made. As well as this personal ID (Identity) for the on line system was critical – a photo or documents – which many people did not have. After the initial application there is then a ‘journal’ which each individual claimant has to complete regularly on line.

Disabled and disadvantaged and lone parents would be worse off. Added to this there was a seven day waiting time before money or help came through. This meant that people were penniless and with no food for the family. However, with lobbying the national CAB managed to get the 7 day period abolished. Another difficulty for people was that benefit payments which were previously weekly had now changed to monthly under Universal Credit. Many people found this a more serious adjustment.

Housing benefits were another huge problem. These benefits which could previously be paid direct to the landlord now had to be paid out by the claimant. The result of this meant that in some months the money was insufficient for the rent, causing rent arrears which could not be corrected for another full month, thus raising the threat of eviction. All of this creating terrible stress and anxiety for families and people

Job Centre staff also had a very difficult job and many more problems dealing with benefit claims. They had no extra help or training to deal with Universal Credit problems and a lot of mistakes were made. Helen explained that sometimes there was a 5 week gap before issues were resolved and money came through. Over a period CAB were able to establish a good working relationship with the Weymouth office and problems could now sometimes be resolved by a ‘phone call.

Some benefit claimants have paid into contributory benefits but they are denied access to these if they have gone into the Universal Credit system – called the Lobsterpot effect, because once you are into UC there is no way back to former benefits or even those to which you are entitled.

Mental health and patient benefit claims especially for those at Forston hospital was also seriously affected by Universal Credit because, in some circumstances, the claimant has to appear in person at the Weymouth benefit office. The situation was so serious that a psychiatrist had written a letter to show the adverse effects upon patient’s health. Now a fund for a special team had been created with Christine at CAB and a social worker to deal with mental health claims.

In spite of the good work done, appeals against the system and lack of benefit could take up to one year to be heard or resolved.

CAB had launched a further campaign sending a lot of evidence to the National body supported by the local MP Oliver Letwin. This was also backed by Shelter and other organisations to show the impact and that Universal Credit was NOT working.
However Daniel explained that the next stage of Universal Credit to be introduced was called ‘Managed Migration’ (migration on to Universal Credit not into the country) which would affect over one million people. It would continue unrelenting –as indeed would the opposition to it.

Daniel remained optimistic in spite of the problems. Due to the chaos created by Universal Credit the core funding for all CAB’s had been increased to £40 million, ensuring their viability for the foreseeable future. He said that Dorchester was fortunate to have Dorchester Poverty Action, a well run Credit Union and a Food Bank as well as the support of the churches and a good community spirit.

Margaret thanked Daniel and Helen for their most helpful and enlightening talk and for all the work that they do at Citizen’s Advice.

Questions were taken from the floor and the meeting closed at 8.15pm.


27th September 2018

CREAM TEA IN PUDDLETOWN

Dorchester Poverty Action held a very successful Cream Tea on Sunday 16th September in the beautiful garden of The Old Vicarage in Puddletown – a big thank you to Jeremy and Mandy Barnes for letting us take over their garden (and kitchen!). As well as serving teas we held a raffle and had a cake and bric-a-brac stall. The event was very well attended (we were in danger of running out of scones) and the grand total of £357 was raised for DPA funds. Thank you to everyone who came to support the event.



25th June 2018

Something to Celebrate!

This year sees us reaching the milestone of having given out £100,000 in grants!

Since the charity started over 25 years ago it has made a real difference to local people in DT1 and DT2 at times of crisis. To celebrate this milestone, we invited the Mayor, local donors, representatives of churches, grant giving trusts and service providers who have referred individuals, to a celebration cream tea on June 4th 2018 at St George’s Church hall.

In addition to the £100,000, DPA has also given out over £60,000 in supermarket vouchers at Christmas and Easter to local helping agencies for their clients in need. All that money – £160,000 – has been raised locally through local churches, grant giving trusts, fundraising activities, local Mayors and local donors and the charity took this opportunity to say thank you to them all.

A new logo was also unveiled and the new more modern name of Dorchester Poverty Action was launched – a real feeling of moving forward with new energy to keep up the good work that Dorchester Poverty Action does.

 


1st February 2018

CHRISTMAS HAMPER FOR 51 FAMILIES IN NEED

This was a great partnership between:
1) Thomas Hardye School students who provided 40 of the hampers.
2)The Food Bank who provided the contents for the remainder and the venue
for families to come, have coffee and collect their hamper.
3)The Lunch Club (for families whose children are eligible for free school
meals), who provided the volunteers and organised the whole coordinated
effort.
4)Dorchester Poverty Action Group who funded fresh food for each hamper.

Well done to everybody!


24th October 2017

OPEN MEETING 2017

This was a great success, with 50 people present and it opened with the launch, by the Mayor of Dorchester, Councillor Susie Hosford, of the new website :

http://whoistheretohelp.org/ 

There were two speakers – Ellie Maguire of Dorset Community Foundation, and Robert Potter of Dorchester Relief in Need.

Ellie Maguire explained that there were 46 Community Foundations across the country and their funding is gathered from unused sources such as unclaimed endowments held by solicitors, unused/outdated parish charities, as well as being distribution agents for national fund-raisers such as Comic Relief.

Local groups (which need not be registered charities) can apply, but not large or national charities, and a few grant streams are open to individuals. She gave examples of the current funding streams:

  • helping local action groups to involve youth work

  • providing bursaries for local disadvantaged students

  • giving fuel grants to those in fuel poverty

  • the Lorna Lieutenant’s fund to assist those who excel in sports to participate.

Ellie also gave us Top Tips for those applying for grants from any agency.

Robert Potter explained that there used to be 5 separate parish charities set up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly funds left by local landowners for poor people living within Dorchester. These were amalgamated finally in 1982 and apply to those living within the parish boundary, which is more or less the DT1 area.

The capital money is invested and the income from this is for local people in need. Applications are not taken direct from individuals but from social workers, health visitors, CAB and similar agencies. Grants are usually in the region of £200 and are managed quite tightly, with specific information being necessary, including a means of paying them to an agency not to the client.

Useful discussion and sharing of information followed, with several local organisations represented. The meeting finished, as promised, by 8.30pm.


2nd October 2017

Cream Tea in Puddletown!  

DPAG held its first ever cream tea on Sunday September 10th 2017. The weather forecast was not good so it was decided to move it from the lovely Old Vicarage garden in Puddletown into the church hall, which was a very good plan. The church hall was just right in every way and the weather was terrible! Despite the rain and wind, lots of kind people came and all had a delicious cream tea for just £3 and spent generously at the stalls and raffle, with a final, amazing result of £418.70.

DPAG is grateful to everyone involved and especially to Jeremy and Mandy who organised the event.

 


Coffee Morning in the United Church hall – 8th July 2017

The annual coffee morning took place on Saturday July 8th and was amazing! We had more people than ever before and more stalls and such a buzz of conversation and laughter. The Mayor, Councillor Susie Hosford opened the event at 10am and there was a queue out on to the street waiting to come in.

The refreshments kept 3 people busy all morning and the cake stall- which also had jams and plants and pictures on it! – made £116. The bric-a-brac stall was so full of bargains, including boxes of tools, that new items could be added to it all morning. There were new stalls – good quality 1,000-piece jig-saws and good value birthday cards – as well as the tombola stall that enabled Wyvern Savings and Loans to talk to customers about the advantages of saving and borrowing with a credit union.

The total proceeds from the event was £718 – more than we have ever raised before and we thank everyone involved.


20th June 2017

Recent Fundraising Efforts

2017 BBQ

How do you raise £474 in one Sunday afternoon?
By selling tickets in advance for a garden BBQ, enrolling a team of helpers, setting up the BBQ, preparing all the food – puddings as well as meats and salads, arranging prizes for a raffle, putting up gazebos, making the garden immaculate, changing the date because of a terrible weather forecast – and then giving us all a really lovely time in sunshine and a howling gale. Very many thanks to our friends who did this for DPAG.

How do you raise £1,200 in one year?
By being the Mayor and Mayoress of Dorchester and holding loads of exciting and colourful events, which raised enough to give £1,200 to each of four chosen charities of the year, plus another £1,000 divided amongst an extra four. Thank you so much to Tim and Anita Harries for being so generous to DPAG.


17th May 2017

Survey of voluntary organisations that help people in Dorset

This was a new project started in 2016 and it has led to the creation of an online database of local helping voluntary organisations, called ‘Who Is There To Help?’ So far it has only 30 West Dorset organisations listed but it will go live at the beginning of June 2017 and it is hoped that about another 60 or more organisations from the same area agree to join the list. It will be accessed by the following link:

http://whoistheretohelp.org/

This new website will be officially launched at the Open Meeting and will be there for people to look at. All charitable local organisations (or branches of organisations) are welcome to submit their details to be included on this helpful website.

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