About my community

Organising a Street Party

Organising a street party is a great way to celebrate with your local community. Visit our page for more information.

The Strategic Needs Assessment

The Strategic (single) Needs Assessment (SNA) uses a wide range of data and analysis to give a picture of the borough of Darlington and its residents.

Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD)

Latest details from the IMD 2015 [pdf document] highlights the issues faced by children and families.

Schools in Darlington

A full list of schools in Darlington.

Financial Inclusion

Financial inclusion ‘Trigger point conversation’ – for Darlington Borough Council Councillors

Let’s talk about money

If our residents aren’t financially included, it can be more difficult for them to cope with crises such as long term sickness, unemployment or family breakdown. It can also mean that they pay more for everyday essential items, such as credit and utility costs. Added to this, the benefits system can be confusing and problems with benefits can lead to missed payments and increased debt, so it is especially important that our residents know who they can talk to who can provide the right information and advice at the right time. Helping them to avoid problems with benefits or their finances can prevent crises and reduce the impact of poverty.

What can you do and when? This information sheet briefly explains ways you may be able to help people by suggesting things to look out for and gives information about the support available. The information sheets referred to are available on the Darlington Borough Council website; the links are listed at the end of this note.   Encourage residents to report changes in circumstances – when they happen This can help to avoid problems like gaps in benefit, and may even increase benefit. For example, reporting a change in the family like a new child or new partner, or a new or worsening health condition can mean extra benefit, and reporting a change in income can avoid a benefit overpayment or underpayment. The offices to report changes to are detailed later in this note.

Have a basic understanding of who can claim benefit and when it can be increased Simply knowing about the various benefits and who can claim them can help you to tell others about them. For example:

  • people with care or mobility needs may be able to claim Personal Independence Payment if they’re aged 16 to 64 and Attendance Allowance if they’re aged 65 or over
  • children aged under 16 with care or mobility needs may be entitled to Disability Living allowance
  • those who are incapable of work may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance • people on a low income may be able to claim Housing Benefit or Tax Credits
  • older people may be able to claim Pension Credit.

Receiving some benefits may also lead to an increase in other benefits, for example Personal Independence Payment can lead to extra Housing Benefit or Tax Credits. We also know that for some working people it is a struggle to make ends meet. Our information sheet on benefits in work explains the financial help residents can get when they are in work and how to get it.

Know about benefit problems and how to avoid them

  • It is important for job seekers and others to comply with benefit requirements to avoid sanctions (a cut in their benefit payment). If residents are sanctioned, they can ask the jobcentre for a hardship payment and can also request a reconsideration and appeal. Further details are in our information sheet on ‘Benefit sanctions and how to avoid them’.
  • If their benefit is stopped – possibly due to a sanction or being found fit for work – their Housing Benefit may also stop and they may need to reclaim it. They should therefore contact the Council’s Housing Benefit section by phone on 01325 405444 without delay.
  • Missing time limits and ignoring letters can cause problems. Encourage residents to understand the time limits, to claim on time and to read letters from the benefit office.

 Know the difference between priority and non-priority debts

Debts can be divided into two types: priority and non-priority. Priority debts are more important than non-priority debts as the consequences of not paying them are more serious. Not paying priority bills and debts can lead to people losing their homes, being sent to prison and having their fuel supply cut off. For this reason, people have to prioritise dealing with those debts before others so that they negotiate affordable repayments and can pay them off first. This has to be done promptly to prevent a crisis.

  • Priority debts are: rent, mortgage and secured loan arrears; gas and electricity arrears; Council Tax, TV licence and child support arrears; Magistrates Court fines; and income tax.
  • Non-priority debts are: bank overdrafts, personal loans, doorstep loans, payday loans, credit and store cards, water arrears, loans from family and friends, old Internet and telephone bills, some benefit overpayments, non-essential hire purchase debts and similar.

Know about illegal money lending (loan sharks)

Illegal money lenders, or loan sharks, are unlicensed traders who operate outside of the law. They often target vulnerable people, charging extortionate rates of interest. Borrowers will not be protected by any form of contract, terms or conditions and non- payment could lead to threats, violence or the taking of valuable items. Loan sharks can sometimes frighten people by saying they will be prosecuted or even sent to prison if they don’t repay their loans. This cannot happen; an unlicensed lender has no legal right to recover the debt.

  • Report loan sharks – contact the Illegal Money Lending Team by phone on 0300 555 2222, email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or text LOAN SHARK and the lender’s details to 60003. The national team also has someone who can provide local support.  

Know about affordable credit options and encourage residents to save

Affordable credit refers to credit facilities provided by organisations who understand the dangers of high cost lending to people on low incomes or with poor credit ratings. They try to offer people more affordable interest rates, as well as debt and budgeting advice, and are a cheaper alternative to high interest lenders for people with limited credit options. In order to apply for a credit union loan residents must be a member and have saved on a regular basis for approximately 4 weeks. Saving regularly, even small amounts of money, can help to provide financial security and can safeguard against unexpected or emergency expenses. It’s also a good habit to get into, especially from an early age.

Know where support is available to get online

Some of this information refers to online support. For details of where computer and Internet access, advice and training is available in Darlington, visit www.darlington.gov.uk/council-tax-and-benefits/money-debt-and-benefits

Know who to contact

Applying for benefits and reporting changes in circumstances

  • Claiming most working age benefits, like Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance – phone Jobcentre Plus on 0845 604 3719
  • Claiming disability benefits, like Personal Independence Payment – phone 0800 917 2222 or visit www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/disability
  • Claiming financial help for older people, like Pension Credit – phone the Department for Work and Pensions on 0800 99 1234 or visit www.gov.uk/pension-credit
  • Financial help when in work – phone the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900

Getting benefit advice and support 

There are a number of services to support you and the residents you work with, some of which have eligibility criteria.

Getting debt advice and support

Telephone and online debt information and advice are provided by:

Local telephone and face-to-face debt advice are available through:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) phone 01325 256999 for an appointment.
  • Money Wise - Free Advice for Darlington Borough Council Tenants. Phone 01325 406962/406939 or email money.wise@darlington.gov.uk

Getting support to reduce expenses and cope with crises 

This is a difficult area and we know that sometimes household income is simply not enough to meet all of people’s expenses and they need to reduce their spending. The Council can provide help in certain circumstances but cannot routinely offset the impact of poverty. There are also a variety of benefits and other support available, some of which have eligibility criteria.

Getting support with fuel poverty

Living in cold homes can damage people’s health and affect their quality of life. Older people, children, disabled people and people with a long term illness, are especially vulnerable. Residents may mention the following to you during conversations, “My home is too cold” or “I can’t afford to put the heating on”. 

Support for separating families

For support and guidance on family mediation and separation [external site].