Durham Key Options are working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) to steer residents away from borrowing from loan sharks in the lead up to Christmas.
A loan shark is someone who lends money illegally without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Loan sharks normally appear friendly at first, but this behaviour soon changes once monies are owed.
Christmas is a prime time for loan sharks - these criminals are swimming around on housing estates, looking for the next vulnerable person to exploit.
It’s easy to fall in to the grip of a loan shark; they seem like friendly people at first, someone who you might refer to as a close neighbour or colleague. You might find yourself short for money during the festive season, but borrowing from a loan shark could result in you paying back significantly more with extortionate interest rates and threats included. When taking out a loan from an illegal money lender, you will be left in the dark, not knowing much how much money you owe or the amount of interest you’re being charged on the loan as often no paperwork is given.
We understand it can sometimes be scary to ask for help, but if you call the England Illegal Money Lending Team’s hotline on 0300 555 2222, you can speak to a member of the team anonymously or in confidence. They are there to help, not judge, and will let you know what your options are so you can decide what to do.
In some cases, loan sharks have been known to resort to the most extreme methods to enforce repayment from borrowers. This has involved victims being subject to intimidation, threats and violence, leaving many frightened to leave their own home.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) can help people who have been a victim of a loan shark. The national team are a law enforcement agency who work with local Trading Standards authorities across the country to investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related offences. The team have previously prosecuted loan sharks for other forms of criminality, including drug offences, kidnap and even rape.
The 50-strong team are made up of Investigators who work endlessly to bring loan sharks to justice and LIAISE officers who protect and support victims, and work with a number of partner agencies to raise general awareness of the issue.
The IMLT have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 328 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off nearly £72.5 million worth of illegal debt and have helped over 27,000 victims.
Residents are urged to never borrow money from someone if they:
Residents can check if someone is authorised to lend money by visiting the Financial Conduct Authority’s website and searching for a company, person or postcode through their Financial Services Register
To get help with debt and budgeting, visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau. If you need a cash loan or would like to open a savings account in preparation for Christmas, visit https://www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk/ to find your nearest credit union.
To report a loan shark:
Social Housing fraud
Social housing fraud is wide-ranging but includes fraudulent applications for housing or successions of tenancy, subletting of the property, and fraudulent applications under the right to buy/acquire.
There has been an increased focus on social housing fraud in recent years and the set-up of the North East Fraud Forum shows the commitment to tackle this regionally. The forum members are Local authorities and housing partners, working jointly to tackle social housing fraud.
By tackling social housing fraud this will ensure that more properties for families in genuine need are made available. Good housing provision has been found to have a positive impact on education, health and the social care needs of a community, so the wider potential benefits to hard-working families are important.
Paul Bradley, Durham County Council’s chief internal auditor and corporate fraud manager said:
“Durham County Council is determined to protect itself, its employees, the public and its partners from fraud and corruption. In order to do this, we are committed to developing a culture of zero tolerance."
To report tenancy fraud or any fraud against Durham County Council you can do so by:
Telephone: 03000 266745
In person: to any Council buildings
A County Durham town is to get 40 new affordable homes as part of a £30m investment programme, creating more than 100 new jobs and apprenticeships.
The new properties in Crook will include two and three bedroomed houses, as well as two and three bed bungalows. Contracts have been signed for the project at West End Villas, in the heart of the town, which is being delivered by a partnership comprising one of the region’s largest landlords, County Durham Housing Group and Galliford Try Partnerships North.
Featuring high levels of insulation, the latest heating systems and double glazing, the new homes are expected to bring big savings to tenants when compared with older homes, particularly those in the private rented sector.
Construction work is expected to be completed in stages during 2018, with the first families moving in shortly after. All of the new homes in Crook will be available for affordable rent.
County Durham Housing Group Development Manager, Tom Winter, said: “We all know that demand for affordable homes is really high right across the country at the moment. This new project in Crook will help to deliver new, high quality homes to families that really need them.
“We’re particularly pleased to be developing bungalows for customers that need them too. As a social landlord it’s great to be able to build homes that the private sector would not ordinarily be able to deliver.
The Crook properties are part of a major house building project by County Durham Housing Group that will see almost 300 new homes built on 17 sites stretching from rural Weardale to the Durham coast.
Galliford Try has contributed £1.2 million to the project from its 2015-18 Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) grant, secured from the Homes and Communities Agency.
Alex Ross, Development Manager with Galliford Try Partnerships North, added: “Working closely with housing provider partners to improve the quality and choice of homes across the North East is a core aim and we are delighted to have been selected to deliver this project.”
Weekly face-to-face advice on the rollout of Universal Credit is being offered in Peterlee and Seaham thanks to one of the region’s largest social landlords.
County Durham Housing Group’s dedicated Universal Credit Team will be on hand to support tenants in Jobcentre offices on a weekly basis.
Officers will be taking appointments in Seaham Jobcentre, St Johns Square, from 9.15am to 1pm every Monday; and at Peterlee Jobcentre, St Cuthbert's Road, from 10.15am to 2.15pm every Friday.
Universal Credit is a single payment scheme that will replace several benefits including Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.
From this month (October 2017) all claimants under pensionable age in Peterlee and Seaham will be affected by the digital rollout of Universal Credit. This includes couples and families.
Appointments to discuss Universal Credit in Peterlee and Seaham can be made by calling 0800 032 0835 or by emailing email@example.com
Anita Lowther, Universal Credit Team Leader, said: “We’re here to help our tenants through these changes.
“Many of our customers feel like they don’t have all of the information they need, or are confused by how Universal Credit will work for them individually.
“We can offer one-to-one guidance and support, and to ensure that if mistakes have been made, they can be corrected by working with the Department for Work and Pensions.”
Anita and her team have already helped several tenants whose Universal Credit payment had been underpaid, leading to hardship. In one case a customer had received £1,700 less than they could have claimed. By working with the Department for Work and Pensions, the tenant is now in receipt of their full entitlement and they have received a backdated payment too.
A relocation to the north east has helped County Durham Housing Group reach a landmark figure in providing affordable homes.
Joseph Fulton has become the 15,000th person to find a home with a County Durham Housing Group landlord using the Durham Key Options lettings scheme.
Mr Fulton moved into his new one-bed flat in Seaham after relocating from Glasgow to the Durham coast to be closer to his daughter.
Former motor mechanic, Mr Fulton, said: "It was a really simple process, I was amazed at how easy it's been. I went to see a Housing Officer in Seaham and everything happened really quickly.
As soon as I saw the flat i was really pleased. It's a nice area and the neighbours are brilliant."
County Durham Housing Group Lettings Team Leader, Stephen Lindsay, said: "We're really pleased to have been able to provide a home for Mr Fulton. We do everything we can to make moving into one of our properties as straight forward as possible. This milestone of 15,000 homes let through Durham Key Options is a significant one as it demonstrates the continuing demand for high quality affordable homes across the County."
Durham Key Options is a choice based lettings system that allows residents to apply for homes across the county online at www.durhamkeyoptions.co.uk.