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 email@example.com.
A £138m home improvement programme by one of the region’s largest housing associations has transformed 24 bungalows in Croxdale.
The homes, in Windsor Court, have all received major improvements including new kitchens, bathrooms and rewiring as part of a major investment by County Durham Housing Group. Some homes have even had changes to their internal layout such as removing outdated pantries or creating wet rooms.
Work on the final few bungalows in Croxdale is now approaching completion, with external footpaths also being resurfaced in the area.
County Durham Housing Group’s 10-year improvement project will make homes cheaper to run and ensure high-quality affordable housing provision in scores of communities stretching from rural Weardale to the coast.
Windsor Court resident Betty Brodie said: “The old kitchen was quite cramped, but this is brilliant. I’ve got more cupboard space and work surface. I’m over the moon, I love it. I can’t thank the workmen enough. I’m really looking forward to baking tomorrow now.”
Neighbour, Sandra Galloway, said: “When I had the knock on the door about the work I was going through a bit of a bad time, but everyone was so helpful. I can’t fault anyone who’s been involved.
“I love the kitchen and the wet room. It feels like a new start. Finishing off the decorating has given me a sense of purpose again.”
County Durham Housing Group Investment Programme Manager, Kim Tillotson, said: “The improvements we’ve been carrying out to these homes in Croxdale have been pretty major. But throughout the whole programme we’ve been keeping in close contact with tenants and doing all we can to minimise disruption.
“It’s hugely satisfying when we hear how happy our tenants are with the completed work. Hopefully they’ll be enjoying their made-over home for years to come.”
Work has already been completed on homes in Bearpark, Brandon, Ushaw Moor and Willington. The refurbishments are being carried out in partnership with specialist contractors ENGIE.
ENGIE was awarded the £138m contract by County Durham Housing Group following a competitive bidding process based on value for money and quality. The company, formerly known as Keepmoat Regeneration, has a long and successful track record of working in the area and extensive experience of delivering major projects, while minimising disturbance to residents.
A pilot scheme in County Durham is set to give more people the chance to benefit from the security and affordability of a housing association home.
One of the north east’s largest social landlords is launching a trial that could ultimately help dozens into stable, low cost homes across the region. County Durham Housing Group is piloting shared tenancies in its homes for the first time, providing an alternative to shared houses in the private rented sector.
The first homes are set to be offered through the scheme, the first of its type in County Durham, will be available this autumn. Both tenants will have equal standing in the tenancy.
The move will make it possible to share a typical two-bedroom flat, with an assured tenancy, with rent from under £37 per week – that’s £63 per week when water, electricity and council tax are included. Tenants will also benefit from a range of support including help with furniture, access to employability guidance or training and budgeting advice, plus access to a 24-hour emergency repairs service.
County Durham Housing Group Head of Housing Operations, Simon Bartlett, said: “We’ve all heard stories of people living in shared homes who have been forced to move with little or no notice. This pilot is intended to provide an alternative to potentially insecure private rent in County Durham.
“We think now is the right time to test shared tenancies because our research shows that there is a strong demand for affordable and secure shared homes in the area. If the pilot is successful we’ll look to expand it to other areas and in other types of property where we can.”
The pilot is not restricted to people who have already identified a prospective housemate. Applications will be accepted from pairs and individuals, with County Durham Housing Group looking to match suitable housemates where needed.
Registrations of interest in the pilot scheme are open now. More information is available from County Durham Housing Group on 0300 1311 999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the north east’s largest housing associations is launching a single phone number for all enquiries.
From Tuesday, 11 September all callers to County Durham Housing Group and its landlords will be able to get in touch by phoning 0300 1311 999.
The group, which includes Dale & Valley Homes, Durham City Homes and East Durham Homes, is advising people to come through their new direct line whether it’s a query about rent, repairs or anything else to do with their home.
Existing numbers for each of the individual landlords will continue to divert to contact centres for six months while customers get used to the change.
County Durham Housing Group Head of Housing Operations, Simon Bartlett, said: “Bringing all three landlords into one group has allowed us to make a huge variety of efficiencies and offer a consistent service to all of our customers. Moving to a single phone number is the latest opportunity to make it easier for all of our residents, whether they live in Wheatley Hill or Wearhead.
“From now on there’ll be just one easy to remember phone number no matter what your query. Directing all enquiries through one phone number will help us manage calls more efficiently, and answer phones more quickly, for all of our customers.”
Calls to the new 0300 1311 999 telephone number will be charged at the same rate as standard landline calls.