The current VCS Support Services Commission, held by Northumberland CVA, comes to an end on 31 March 2016 and the Council is seeking your views in an online survey on its proposals for future funding of the VCS. 
In an accompanying letter to the survey Kirsten Francis, Principal Policy Officer (Inclusion) for the Council, said:
 
“The current provider, Northumberland Community Voluntary Action, has performed well against the Council’s monitoring criteria, making significant progress to a countywide service. NCVA have also gathered momentum around the Northumberland VCS Assembly, increasing membership and putting in place elected governance structures.  NCC is concerned this progress would be hampered by re-commissioning.  Existing staff would be put at risk of redundancy and the development and strengthening of new relationships would be undermined due to uncertainty. As a result we are proposing to extend the contract for another two years.”

Read the full letter, entitled Proposals for Future Funding of VCS Support Services and take part in the survey here.  The survey will remain open until 31st January 2016.  Please take the time to give your views.

For many young people remaining at home or returning home is not an option.  In the summer budget the Chancellor announced the abolition of the automatic entitlement to housing benefit (HB) for young people aged 18 to 21.  There is increasing concern that this change will lead to higher numbers of young people who become homeless.

Working in partnership, Crisis Skylight and YNHE are launching a participatory research project aimed at gathering evidence of the impact of the loss of HB for 18 – 21 year olds and creating an awareness raising campaign to present the findings to policy makers, politicians and the general public.

The project will entail gathering evidence through a survey, case-studies and using art to enable young people to share their views and concerns on the likely consequences if housing benefit is no longer available.  Artists will work directly with young people in each of the sub-regions through our Regional Champions (Centrepoint, Community Campus, Barnardo’s and Your Homes Newcastle – Youth Voice).   The artwork and findings of the research will be presented at a launch event and will be showcased through a regional exhibition.

This survey is the first stage of gathering evidence.  YHNE want to ensure that young people from across the region have the opportunity to share their views on the proposed changes to housing benefit.  YHNE would therefore like your help to make sure the young people you work with take part by completing the short survey below.

They have created two versions of the survey, one for young people to complete and one for staff who work with young people looking at the effects of the removal of housing benefit:

Young Person Survey

Staff And Service Provider Survey

YHNE have also included questions to find out who would be interested in providing case-studies and taking part in the art sessions.  The art sessions are scheduled to begin from the 1st February 2016 until the 22nd February 2016.

Please return all hard copies of the survey to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The way that benefits are paid for people with mental and physical disabilities is changing, and Age UK Northumberland and Northumbrian Citizens Advice want to make sure that some of the County’s most vulnerable people get the practical help they need. 

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is changing. It is being phased out for people aged between 16 and 64 and being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP). PIP is like DLA, a benefit for people who have a physical or mental disability and need help participating in everyday life or find it difficult to get around, but there are some key differences.

If you or a member of your family currently qualify for Disability Living Allowance, and you receive a letter about changing to a Personal Independence Payment, it’s very important that you take prompt action.  Some people currently getting DLA will not qualify for PIP at all, but some may be better off.

From July 2015, all DLA claimants between 16 and 64 will be invited to claim PIP if they reach the end of a fixed term award of DLA, the DWP are notified about a change in their care or mobility needs or they reach the age of 16. The DWP will write to all other DLA claimants between October 2015 and the end of 2017, inviting them to claim PIP.

The only claimants who will remain on DLA are children under 16 and adults who turned 65 on or before the 8th April 2013. It is not possible for anyone else to choose to stay on DLA, though you do not have to claim PIP until the DWP invites you to do so. If PIP is not claimed within 4 weeks of the invitation from the DWP, entitlement to DLA will stop. This may affect other benefits coming into the household.

Says Deb Still at Age UK Northumberland; “We’re rather concerned that the implications of these new arrangements which touch the daily lives of some of the County’s most vulnerable people, might not be well understood.   It’s a particular issue if people don’t deal well with paperwork because of their disability, have dementia, or are coping alone.”  

Not meeting the DWP deadlines might mean people could lose their entitlement, because the deadlines for change are fixed, and eligibility for PIP and DLA are different.  

So if someone in your household gets DLA and receives a letter about Personal Independence Payment, it is very important to take action. If you feel uncertain about the process of claiming PIP and would like advice or practical support, advice agencies such as Citizen’s Advice or Age UK Northumberland are able to help.

Says Joanna Walton of Citizens Advice; “If you don’t understand the changes or have problems filling in forms, there is help available.  If you are a carer or family member of someone who currently receives DLA, keep an eye out for the letter with the invitation to claim PIP.  We’d be happy to help.”

A special Assembly meeting took place on Wednesday 9th December with Northumberland County Council to discuss the implications of devolution for the County.  Senior representatives from the Council attended the meeting to present the implications of the deal for Northumberland and to discuss the role of the voluntary and community sector in making devolution work.

The Council, along with authorities from Tyne & Wear and County Durham, has recently signed a proposed devolution agreement with Government designed to drive economic growth and bring jobs and investment to the North East.  The overall aim of a devolution agreement for the North East would be to secure the means by which we can build a stronger economy, generate more and better jobs and improve transport links and skills training throughout the region. It is reportedly worth £1.35bn over the next 30 years. In all £900m of that will go to NECA and the rest - £450m - to Tees Valley.

Slides of the presentation delivered at the meeting are available here.  A short note of the key comments made by the sector will be circulated in due course.

As you may be aware, there are currently a number of local authorities in the north east considering whether to participate in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and North East Migration Partnership Officer want to gather information on the services / expertise / knowledge of your organisation, that could assist with the resettlement of vulnerable Syrian refugees into the region. 

Could you help them gather this information?  If so, please complete the audit report and return to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 20th November 2015.