Help and support remain available for people and businesses in County Durham during the current lockdown period.
Durham County Council is seeking to reassure people that support is at hand for those who are impacted by the lockdown, particularly those who need support to access essential supplies, or need support about money, housing, health or employment due to coronavirus or those in need of business support.
People are advised to seek help from friends, family and neighbours where possible, but anyone in need of extra support can find a list of local support groups on the council’s website at www.durhamlocate.org.uk
If anyone is unable to find the support needed from these sources, please complete an enquiry form at www.durham.gov.uk/covid19help. These enquiries will be directed to County Durham Together, the virtual community hub. The hub can support people to access food supplies such as online shopping or put people in touch with local organisations that can help. For anyone feeling lonely or isolated the hub can also support people to access groups or the Chat Together service. Alternatively, residents can contact the hub directly by emailing email@example.com or calling 03000 260 260.
People may also be interested in helping to share key messages in their communities – if so they could become a Covid 19 community champion – those interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org
Help is also at hand for those who have been told to self-isolate after contracting coronavirus through the test and trace payment scheme. Anyone who has been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, on or after 28 September 2020 either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, and meets the eligibility criteria, may be entitled to a £500 support payment. To find out more and to apply for a payment, go to https://www.durham.gov.uk/testandtracepayment
Businesses in County Durham which have had to close due to the new restrictions will also be able to access financial support through the Local Restrictions Support Grant Scheme, which Durham County Council will launch next week. There are separate grants available for businesses that were affected by socialising restrictions during the Tier 2 local restrictions (between 18 September and 4 November) and for businesses that have been required to close as a result of the national lockdown (between 5 November and 2 December).
Further assistance available from the government includes the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme; the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, which enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly during the coronavirus outbreak; and the Future Fund, which provides government loans to UK-based companies, application deadlines have now been extended to January 31, 2021.
The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – also known as the Furlough scheme – will now remain open until the end of March 2021, with employees receiving 80 percent of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. Businesses will be able to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis or furlough them full-time and will be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions.
Business Durham has produced a brochure outlining the support available. Find it at www.businessdurham.co.uk/covid-19-recovery/covid-recovery-for-businesses/business-support-brochure/
Cllr Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “We appreciate that this a difficult and unsettling period but please be aware that there is support available for individuals, families, businesses and their employees.
“We would continue to encourage people, where possible, to use their trusted network of family and friends in the first instance of need. However, I would also like to assure everyone that the council and our partners are here to help and to get in touch if you or someone you know could benefit from the support on offer.”
Other support includes:
• County Durham Jobs Fuse helps employers and job seekers by promoting vacancies and providing tailored support to businesses. Individuals can also call the National Careers Service freephone number for advice on 0800 100 900 or access resources at www.nationalcareers.service.gov.uk. Employers can ring 0808 1963596 or email to get tailored support at JobsFuse@educationdevelopmenttrust.com
• The government has introduced a Kickstart Scheme which provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Durham County Council is a Kickstart gateway with the potential for the creation of 200 to 260 new jobs as part of the scheme. For more information go to https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme
• DurhamWorks is supporting unemployed young people aged 16 to 24 to secure employment by providing small businesses with a salary grant of up to £2,500. More details are at www.durhamworks.info/
• Employability Durham supports County Durham residents who are unemployed and over 25, to move into employment and training. For further information see www.durham.gov.uk/employability
• The Durham Savers Project, also run by the council, supports the financial well-being of people who live and work in County Durham. More details are available at www.durham.gov.uk/DurhamSavers