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Universal Credit

Published: Wednesday 23 August 2017
Universal Credit

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.

Get ready!

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:

For support, including advice on the welfare assistance scheme, contact Durham County Council on 03000 260 000.

Recruits wanted for free employability course

Published: Friday 11 August 2017
Recruits wanted for free employability course

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

New bidding cycles for DKO from 4th April 2017

Published: Monday 20 March 2017

We are changing the way we advertise our properties on Durham Key Options.

We will now advertise properties from midnight on the same day we become aware they are (or will be) vacant. So if we have a vacant property on a Monday, we will advertise it from midnight that day for 6 days (so you will still have time to bid) and we will then contact successful applicants the following Monday (on the 7th day). This means we can quicken the time it takes to offer you homes that we know are available.

Our first new cycle will begin at midnight on Tuesday 4th April. See below table for our new cycles, starting 5 times a week:

Advertising cycle Shortlisting day
 Monday midnight - Sunday midnight Monday
Tuesday midnight - Monday midnight Tuesday
Wednesday midnight - Tuesday midnight Wednesday
Thursday midnight - Wednesday midnight Thursday
Friday midnight - Thursday midnight Friday


To guarantee you see all properties available each week you will need to:

  1. Visit our website on a weekend (as all cycles will be running at that time)


   2. Visit our website twice a week during the week (weekdays)

If you have any queries, please contact your local housing partner here.

Have you considered Durham Key Options HomeSwap?

Published: Monday 16 January 2017

Did you know that you could move home more quickly by registering for ‘HomeSwap’?

HomeSwap is a mutual exchange scheme available through Durham Key Options, which enables two or more tenants (with our 7 housing partners- Cestria, Dale and Valley Homes, Derwentside Homes, Durham City Homes, East Durham Homes, livin and North Star Housin) to switch homes.

By swapping tenancies with another household, you may be able to move more quickly – and this includes to homes outside of County Durham.

Available homes for exchange are advertised online here (tick 'Mutual Exchange' when searching).

For further information please go to our DKO HomeSwap page.

The Housing Benefit that you may receive in the future is changing

Published: Thursday 28 April 2016

From 1 April 2019, the way Housing Benefit [or the housing element of Universal Credit] is calculated will be changing.

What does it mean for me?

If you have signed a new or renewed tenancy from 1 April 2016 [1 April 2017 for supported accommodation tenancies] onwards, the amount of Housing Benefit [or the Housing element of Universal Credit] that you may receive from 1 April 2019 could be restricted.

This is because if you rent from a local authority, a registered housing association or other registered social landlord the amount of Housing Benefit [or the housing element of Universal Credit] you will receive will be capped to the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household size that currently applies to private sector tenants. The Local Housing Allowance rates for your area can be found at

If you are under 35 years old and do not have any dependent children living with you, your eligible rent will be capped to a shared accommodation rate even if you do not share your home with anyone else.

Will I also have to pay for any spare rooms?

If you are of working age and have one or more extra bedrooms, your rent and any service charges used in the assessment of your Housing Benefit [or the housing element of Universal Credit] is already capped.

If the difference between your rent and the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household is higher than the reduction for under-occupied bedrooms, only the cap will apply. Similarly, if the reduction for under-occupied bedrooms is higher than the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household, only the reduction for under-occupied bedrooms will apply.

If you are of pension age, you will not receive a reduction in the rent used to assess your Housing Benefit for any under-occupied bedrooms but your rent will be capped to the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household.

Please note – in all cases, you will only receive one reduction.

What do I need to do now?

If you sign a new tenancy or renew a tenancy after 1 April 2016 [1 April 2017 for supported accommodation] you will need to think about whether the rent you pay in the social sector is higher than that allowed for private rented sector tenants.

In particular, if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit on or after 1 April 2019, you will need to consider how your will afford any shortfall in your rent. The website links above will help you to determine whether your rent is above the Local Housing Allowance rates for your area.

If you are unsure if this applies to you, please contact Durham County Council or your local landlord.