People struggling with digital benefit claims, finding work, or managing their rent online now have dedicated support through a new project.
County Durham Housing Group has provided funding to the Active Community Engagement Services (ACES) internet café in the centre of Seaham to enable the scheme to buy new IT equipment for its ‘helping hands’ project.
Helping hands was launched when it became apparent that many people in the Seaham area were not accessing the support and benefits they were entitled to due to a lack of IT experience and access to the internet. As well as dedicated equipment, the project has an experienced member of staff to provide guidance and support.
The facility in Adelaide Row is hoping the project will provide support to around 150 local people within the next three months with tasks like making Universal Credit claims online.
County Durham Housing Group awarded £500 to the project through its ‘group grant’ scheme.
County Durham Housing Group Funding Officer, Damian Pearson, said: “For most of us being able to do so much online is a great time-saving. But for anyone who doesn’t have experience of using the internet for whatever reason, it can bring stress and fear of the unknown.
“This project will provide really welcome help to so many people in Seaham and the surrounding area. With the support on offer dozens of families will be able to access benefits, pay their rent online or apply for a new job. The difference it could make is huge.”
Alison Chapman from ACES internet café said: “The introduction of Universal Credit has presented many challenges to our local community and we are eager to help and support vulnerable people to navigate through their claim and ongoing maintenance to sustain their benefits and avoid benefit sanctions.”
The application process for ‘group grant’ has been kept deliberately simple and funding decisions will be made monthly to ensure local groups are not waiting for lengthy periods to find out if they have been successful.