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paid placements break down barriers to work

Published: Friday 3 March 2023

Two paid work placements have been created by believe housing, and they are offered exclusively to customers of the housing association. 

The part-time administrative roles are open to people aged 24 or older, who have no prior experience but are looking to start or change their career. 

The successful applicants will work in the housing association’s Community Investment Team, which awards grant funding to not-for-profit projects improving the lives and wellbeing of people in County Durham. 

Throughout the placement they will be supported by an employability coordinator, and they can gain a Level 2 information, advice and guidance qualification. 

At the end of the six-month contract, they are guaranteed an interview for this job or another within believe housing. 

County Durham-based believe housing created the positions to build on the success of New Start, a joint approach to employability by a number of North East housing providers. 

The New Start initiative was launched in 2021 and, in ten months, created 73 career-starter placements which helped many participants go on to secure employment. 

Members of the Housing Employment Network North East (HENNE), including Karbon Homes, Your Home Newcastle and believe housing, hope New Start 2 will give more customers the skills and experience needed to enter the world of work. 

Rachel Edmunds, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at believe housing, said: “We’ve created this opportunity specifically for customers with no previous admin experience, who might otherwise struggle to make the shortlist for such a role. 

“This is us living our values and vision of ‘life without barriers’. 

“It is a chance for someone to gain real paid work experience, to discover if it is the right sort of role for them, with holistic wraparound support that will help with their future. 

“And the role they’ll have will be both rewarding and important. 

“They’ll be the linchpins of the Community Investment Team, developing relationships with charitable groups and performing essential admin tasks that ensure we can continue to support people and communities through our grant funding.” 

Both positions are for 2.5 days a week, which can be flexible, and will be paid the living wage.  

To apply contact the Employability Team by emailing or calling 0300 1311 999.  

The closing date for applications is noon on Friday, 17 March 2023. 

Couple's ideal bungalow marks milestone for housing provider

Published: Friday 3 March 2023

Leaving their family home after half a century was a wrench for Malcolm and Barbara Clement, until they found the ideal new bungalow with believe housing.

The couple lived in their previous house, in Shildon, County Durham, for 53 years.

But when the time came to get a bungalow, for health reasons, the 73-year-olds found the perfect one in Witton Gilbert, near Durham.

Malcolm, once an open-mic night regular across County Durham and Darlington, said: “In 2014 I discovered I had COPD and might only have two years left.

“I’m a fighter so I looked after my health, got fitter and even walked the Great North Run.

“But it doesn’t go away. I worked in the lift industry, but had to pack in, and Barbara’s had terrible back problems, so we knew it was time for a bungalow.

“For me, this is idyllic, the ideal place to spend the rest of our days together.

“Plus, we can do the housework in four hours now, not four days.”

Barbara said: “It was wrench at first, I’d always felt safe and settled in the old house, but it was too big.

“Our two wonderful daughters and family helped us to move and we’re really happy here, it is wonderful and has been worth it.”

The bungalow, one of four built in Findon Avenue for believe housing, represented a milestone for the County Durham-based housing provider.

In 2015, believe housing set out plans to deliver more than 700 new homes by 2022.

And the Findon Avenue scheme, completed by construction partner Imperator Developments in December, included the 700th.

But believe housing isn’t stopping there.

In 2021, it increased its initial pledge and announced plans to provide more than 2,000 new homes across the region by 2026.

Kate Abson, believe housing’s Director of Development, said: “It was a real achievement to meet that initial commitment, particularly after a few challenging years, and we appreciate the support of all those involved.

“Our new properties are making a real difference to existing and new customers, providing them with a fantastic energy efficient home which meets theirs and their family’s needs.

“It is wonderful to see customers, like Malcolm and Barbara, feeling happy in a home that suits them.

“In the coming years, we’ll remain focused on delivering our ambitious new-build programme, maximising the availability of high-quality affordable homes for those who truly need them in communities across our area.”

believe housing's 'inspiring' stand against domestic abuse

Published: Friday 3 March 2023

A housing provider has been recognised as a ‘beacon of good practice’ for its work to improve and save the lives of domestic abuse victims.

The Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance has awarded County Durham-based believe housing DAHA accreditation for a second consecutive time.

DAHA accreditation is the UK benchmark for how housing providers should take a stand to deliver safe and effective responses to domestic abuse. 

To achieve accreditation, believe housing had to meet standards in eight priority areas including policy and procedures, staff development and support, survivor-led support, and perpetrator accountability.

A thorough assessment included interviews with employees and partner practitioners and a review of working practices.

The panel was impressed by believe housing’s support for both customers and employees and its response to the number of cases reported, which continues to rise on the back of the Covid pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.

A new Urgent Support Team is helping to meet demand and provide tailored support to those experiencing multiple disadvantages.

And an innovative suicide support network of trained employees, who volunteered to help people struggling with mental health concerns during the pandemic, continues to support those expressing suicidal thoughts.

A DAHA spokesperson said: “To see the passion with which this project has been led has been inspiring.

“We know the dedication, commitment, and hard work it takes to adopt and then embed standards of good practice and the success here is so well deserved.

“By undertaking this work, we know that lives of victims and survivors will have been improved and in fact saved.

believe housing can be considered a beacon of good practice around domestic abuse in the north east.”

Sam Humble, Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods at believe housing, said: “We are incredibly proud of achieving DAHA accreditation, for a second time, which is down to a groupwide effort by our fantastic employees.

“A great deal of work and commitment goes into ensuring that believe housing does the right thing to support any person experiencing domestic abuse.

“We encourage colleagues to be aware of physical, emotional, economic, sexual abuse and neglect and to report any concerns.

“We can help people get the help and advice they need and work closely with partner agencies to ensure appropriate safeguards are put in place and that a victim’s rights and wishes are respected.”

Scheme to make homes warmer, greener and cheaper to heat reaches milestones

Published: Friday 3 March 2023

Work to upgrade the energy efficiency of 1,000 County Durham homes has reached a milestone, just in time for the arrival of winter.

North-east housing provider believe housing is working with contractor RE:GEN Group to improve customers’ homes in a scheme worth more than £5m.

The work, which is part-funded by the government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF), will make those homes feel warmer and reduce energy usage and cost.

RE:GEN Group has now installed measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation, improved ventilation, heating controls, sensors and energy efficient lighting in 500 believe housing properties. 

To celebrate the milestone, representatives from believe housing and RE:GEN Group presented a bouquet to Rosemary Beer, of Peterlee, whose home was the 500th property completed under the scheme. They also thanked her for allowing the work to go ahead.

Ruth Dent, Director of Assets and Compliance at believe housing, said: “It is amazing to reach the halfway point with this first wave of SHDF part-funded works, which will improve the energy efficiency of 1,000 of our customers’ homes. 

“Customers are telling us the work has been straightforward and they’re feeling the benefits already.”

Brian Bedford, Head of Sustainability at RE:GEN Group said: “This has been a fantastic project so far and reaching the 500th home is a real milestone for all of us.

“Working in close collaboration with the team at believe housing, we have spent a lot of time understanding the intricacies and details around each property’s makeup, comparing the current energy efficiency scores of each home against the recommended target to help us identify which properties will benefit most from the efficiency upgrades.

“The beauty of the retrofit work we are delivering is that it’s incredibly light touch. It is not disruptive and it’s over in a really short space of time. In most cases just 48 hours from opening up to handover. 

“The results not only provide residents with a warmer, more comfortable home at the perfect time before the winter months really set in, but residents will also benefit from long term enhanced indoor air quality, improving overall health, wellbeing and satisfaction – something you really cannot put a price on.”

As the partners celebrate reaching a milestone in the ongoing retrofit scheme, believe housing is working on a bid for £6m from wave two of the SHDF.

If successful, the housing association will match the funding so it can improve more than 2,000 properties.

Ruth added: “It was a real achievement to secure £3.4m from wave one of the SHDF, as part of a Durham County Council-led consortium. We then invested a further £1.69m in the ongoing scheme.

“With the second bid we’re aiming even higher, looking to double the number of homes we can retrofit. 

“This will help our customers feel warm and comfortable at home, bring down their energy bills, and reduce the impact of our housing stock on the environment. 

“It will also help us achieve an EPC rating C or better for all our existing housing stock, ahead of the Government’s 2030 target.”  

Overall, the government has announced it will allocate £3.8bn to the SHDF over 10 years.  

Village shop to reopen after believe housing secures new long-term tenant for former Sainsbury's Local

Published: Monday 4 April 2022

PLANS to reopen a ‘lifeline’ village shop in County Durham have been welcomed.

A One Stop convenience store will open in the former Sainsbury’s Local in Grove Road, Brandon, after a long-term deal was agreed with the site’s owners, believe housing.

The County Durham-based housing association has agreed a 15-year lease of the unit to Wilson Retail Limited, a franchise of the One Stop retail company.

Wilson Retail Limited and One Stop plan to carry out a £150,000 upgrade of the unit over the summer, before opening the shop later in the year. 

Kate Abson, Director of Development at believe housing, said: “We’re delighted to be bringing a convenience store back to Brandon, as we know people were disappointed when Sainsbury’s Local moved out under a break option in their lease.

“This new 15-year lease will ensure the community has access to a good selection of products, at competitive prices, for the long-term.”

Daniel Wilson, director of Wilson Retail Ltd, said: “The Brandon store appealed to us straight away because we are already based in the north east.

“The village is a great size for a convenience store and it is perfectly located, with excelled parking facilities.

“We worked with believe housing and offered a vision of how we could reopen and modernise the location, as I know they were keen to get the best possible retailer they could for the area.  

“We believe we can provide an excellent convenience store that Brandon wants and needs.”

The news has been welcomed by Durham County Councillors for Brandon, Jonathan Elmer and Paul Taylor, who say residents have missed having a shop on their doorstep since Sainsbury’s Local closed in May 2021.

Councillor Jonathan Elmer said: “The difficulties caused by the loss of the Sainsbury’s Local last spring was something residents raised with me, time and again, on the doorstep.

“Having discussed this with believe housing about a year ago, I was reassured to hear that they were actively seeking a new tenant.

“I’m so pleased to hear that they have found one.”

Cllr Paul Taylor said: “To say I am delighted that we are to have a new convenience store on Grove Road would be an understatement. 

“Local residents were so very upset by loss of the shop, a shop at this location was a lifeline for the many older residents that live in this area of our community. 

“I want to express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to believe housing, who I have had regular communication with over the months, for bringing a leading, and much-respected retailer to Brandon. 

“I extend a very warm welcome to One Stop from myself and our community.”