One of the north east’s largest providers of affordable homes today revealed its new identity and vision for the future of social housing in the region.
County Durham Housing Group, which provides low-cost homes for more than 18,000 families in the region, becomes ‘believe housing’ today. The rebrand does not have any impact on arrangements for existing tenants but marks a shift in the aspirations of the four-year-old organisation.
The new name comes at the same time as a change in structure. Following consultation with tenants and stakeholders, the four individual landlords that formed County Durham Housing Group since inception have been brought together as a single housing provider for the first time. This means that Dale & Valley Homes, Durham City Homes and East Durham Homes that make up the group will also disappear from today.
The group’s existing £54m new-build programme, which is delivering 545 homes, and £138m improvement programme to existing properties will continue under believe housing. Existing community investment programmes, which have supported more than 100 local groups over the last two years, will continue as well.
Chief Executive of believe housing, Bill Fullen, said: “Since the group was formed four years ago we’ve come a long way, and probably quicker than we could have hoped for".
“The launch of believe housing is an important step in our aims to transform the provision of affordable homes in the region and help our tenants meet their aspirations".
“When considering our new identity, the answer was right in front of us. We’re remaining true to our existing vision – we believe in life without barriers – because after all, anything is possible if you believe".
“Our new, stronger organisation is ideally placed to expand on what we’ve already achieved. We’ll be able to deliver the same high standards across the county and our new simpler structure will be far easier for tenants or stakeholders to understand".
“We believe that affordable housing should be the catalyst for communities to flourish and our new identity is designed to reflect that. We’re determined to challenge many of the preconceptions around social housing and show that it can be a force for good; not just with our new branding but in everything we do”.
believe housing, which will retain headquarters in Seaham plus offices in Bishop Auckland, Durham and Peterlee, employs more than 450 people. That figure is set to grow as property repairs in the east Durham area will be brought in-house this summer. Repairs across the rest of the area are already carried out in-house.
To contact believe housing:
Residents in County Durham are being urged to join the fight against fraud as part of Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week.
Each year, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of pounds are taken unlawfully from Durham County Council through fraud. This includes council tax and tenancy fraud, as well as false claims for direct payments for social care and support, insurance and blue badges for disabled parking.
Now the council is encouraging anyone who knows of someone committing such fraud, to report it.
Fraud steals money away from vital frontline services and fighting this crime helps us not only protect these services but ensure taxpayers' hard-earned money is not wasted. But we can’t do this alone, so we are asking anyone who is aware of it or has concerns to let us know.
“We investigate all reports we receive and will not hesitate to prosecute offenders to ensure we protect the public purse.”
Over the last three years the council has recovered or intercepted more than £3million pounds from fraudulent activity.
As well as investigating reports from the public, the council carries out regional and national data matching, as well as working closely with neighbouring local authorities, police and law enforcement agencies.
To report fraud:
Text: 07797 870 192, start your message with the word ‘fraud’
Call 03000 266 745
The group signed up to the Stop Loan Sharks charter in Peterlee on Monday, 28 January.
The charter commits the group to encourage customers to report loan sharks, increase awareness of the risks associated with using illegal money lenders, and help tenants understand legal and affordable alternatives.
The initiative from the England Illegal Money Lending Team is being supported right across County Durham.
County Durham Housing Group has joined forces with the England Illegal Money Lending Team and organisations including Durham County Council, East Durham College and NE First Credit Union to stage a week of action in the Peterlee and Shotton area.
County Durham Housing Group’s Operational Transformation Project Director, Mick Doyle, said: “Loan sharks prey on people who are desperate and cause untold misery in our communities. People need to know that there are much more affordable alternatives where people are not exploited by unscrupulous lenders. In particular, credit unions are community-based and a great way for people to save and borrow.
“I would urge anyone who is aware of loan sharks operating in our communities to report them.”
The charter signing took place as part of a week of action in Peterlee and Shotton to ‘bite back’ at loan sharks.
Hundreds of families were provided with information on avoiding or reporting loan sharks; and local volunteers were trained to help people who have fallen prey to an illegal money lender.
Common signs that a lender could be a loan shark include:
More help and support on tackling loan sharks is available at www.stoploansharks.co.uk or by calling 0300 555 2222 safely and anonymously.
Residents are being warned not to turn to predatory loan sharks to solve Christmas money worries. The Stop Loan Sharks project has launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the risks posed by illegal money lenders and provide guidance on where help can be found.
Loan sharks do not operate under official financial regulations and can cause extreme misery to those who choose to use them. Any person lending money should have a consumer credit licence from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Licensed lenders have to comply with legal obligations in dealing with consumers, including the use of official paperwork and fair collection methods. Loan sharks operate illegally without the correct permissions from the FCA. These criminals often take benefit or bank cards as security and resort to intimidation and violence if victims default.
Loan sharks can charge interest rates running to thousands of per cent, making it impossible for borrowers to repay the loan. Tips to protecting yourself against Loan Sharks this Christmas:
•Save money regularly, so you are not in urgent need of a loan
•Do not accept cash loans, even if the lender seems friendly or helpful
•Search the FCA Financial Services register to check the lender is legal https://register.fca.org.uk/ If you need to borrow money, credit unions are a safer alternative than borrowing from a loan shark. Visit www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk to find your nearest credit union. If you have been the victim of a loan shark, you can contact the Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or stoploansharks.co.uk. Their lines are open around the clock throughout the festive season.
Tailor-made training courses for social tenants are coming after one of the region’s largest housing associations picked up nationally recognised accreditation.
A new series of courses aimed at helping tenants improve their CV, pick up key skills or get back into work is to be launched by County Durham Housing Group. The group has achieved accredited centre status by NCFE, which allows it to design and run courses specifically to meet the needs of tenants.
County Durham Housing Group is one of the first housing associations in the north east to become an officially accredited training provider.
The group’s Community Training Coordinator, Sean Robson, said: “This accreditation gives us the freedom to provide really targeted and tailored training. We’ll be able to offer courses that will provide the vital stepping stones towards the careers that our tenants want.
“Even just within County Durham the work opportunities in Seaham or Peterlee are very different from Stanhope or Crook. Now we’ll be able to help tenants gain accredited qualifications that will help them venture into employment in their area. And we’ll be able to deliver all of these courses in the communities where they are needed.”
The first accredited courses are set to include Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications in Health and Safety, CV Writing and Employability Skills. Courses are set to start from January 2019 in a variety of locations across the county.
Alongside the courses, County Durham Housing Group’s Employability Team also offer support with job searching, dealing with barriers to work and interview techniques.
More information on courses is available from Sean Robson at County Durham Housing Group on 0300 1311 999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.