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.
Are you ready? Universal Credit is being fully rolled out across County Durham by the Department for Work and Pensions from October 2017. It’s a single monthly payment which replaces:
• Income Support
• Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
• Housing Benefit
• Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
For most working age people, if you make a new claim for any of these benefits – this will affect you! Universal Credit does not apply to pensioners or households with three or more children. If you move onto Universal Credit and receive help with your rent, the DWP will pay this as part of your new benefit. This means you will be responsible for paying rent to your landlord. Universal Credit will mean big changes for anyone receiving it.
Apply online - You will need to verify your identity, manage your claim online and have your own email account.
Bank account - You will need a bank account for your money to be paid directly in to.
Change to receiving your benefits monthly – this includes your rent if you receive help with it.
Think about how you will manage your money and speak to your landlord if you will have difficulties paying your rent.
For further information, visit: www.gov.uk/universal-credit
For support, including advice on the welfare assistance scheme, contact Durham County Council on 03000 260 000.
A free County Durham employment project, that has already helped 25 people back on the road to work, is now seeking its next round of recruits.
The Stepping Stones to Employment project, led by County Durham Housing Group and Auckland Castle Trust, is designed to boost confidence, develop new and transferrable skills and enhance employability in a fun and easy way.
More than 90% of those enrolled on the first course found either work or further education and training within weeks of completion, including one who is carving out a career with the prison service and another now employed as a swimming coach.
Enrolment for the September course, which will run at Auckland Youth and Community Centre in Woodhouse Close, Bishop Auckland, is open now - with applications closing on Monday, 4 September.
Susan Graydon, from Coundon, who completed the first Stepping Stones course earlier this year, said: “I wanted to change my career but felt like a dinosaur and needed to update my skills and interview techniques. Stepping Stones was excellent and I’ve already enrolled at college as a result.”
Rupert Wansbury, who also enrolled, said: “Before I found this course I was sitting in the house most days; I was worried for my future. Now I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I need to do to improve. I’ve built my confidence and received a lot of help in working out which courses are right for me so I’m looking to better my qualifications and get into a full time job.”
There are 15 places currently available for the next round of the 10-week Stepping Stones to Employment programme, with everyone taking part being offered the chance to gain skills and qualifications in areas such as health and safety, first aid, food hygiene, event planning and computing.
Crucially the course, which is free to attend, will also focus on improving self-confidence and interview skills, both of which have been identified as key barriers to re-entering employment after a period out of work.
Sean Robson, Community Training Coordinator at County Durham Housing Group, said: “Anyone who has spent time looking for a job will know that it can seriously knock your confidence. That’s why Stepping Stones places such an emphasis on growing confidence and real experience of interview techniques.
“We hope that the combination of skills training and renewed self-belief will give everyone taking part an advantage when they’re applying for jobs long into the future.”
At the end of the Stepping Stones course, all participants will have the opportunity to use their new skills in a practice interview at regional charity Auckland Castle Trust.
Alison Tweddle from Auckland Castle Trust, said: “Stepping Stones to Employment is accessible to all ages and backgrounds. Each fun and informal session is steered by attendees and is designed specifically to help people feel confident and prepared enough to re-enter the workforce or begin further training.”
The Stepping Stones to Employment project is funded by NE Procurement. For more information, or to apply, please contact Sean Robson at County Durham Housing Group on 0191 349 7753 or firstname.lastname@example.org