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Derwentside Homes shortlisted for prestigious award

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Derwentside Homes shortlisted for prestigious award

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Published by Ailsa Macmillan for Derwentside Homes Ltd in Housing and also in Communities

Keith Tallintire with The Store Manager Lesley Richardson and two volunteers. Keith Tallintire with The Store Manager Lesley Richardson and two volunteers.

A housing association has received a big tick for its work at building stronger communities in County Durham through an initiative which has saved residents thousands of pounds on household goods.

Derwentside Homes has been shortlisted in the Building Stronger Communities Award category as part of the Business in the Community’s (BITC) Responsible Business Awards, which champions responsible businesses and their achievements.

The housing provider has been shortlisted because of its work supporting The Store also known as The Smarterbuys Store, which makes it easier for residents to buy furniture and household items through affordable weekly payments.at cheaper credit ratings.

The Store is a joint initiative between Derwentside Homes, Prince Bishops Community Bank (PBCB), social enterprise SHED and the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC).

As well as Derwentside Homes, the shortlist also includes an impressive list of names including Lloyds Banking Group, Mind Gym, Mondelez International and New Charter Housing Trust Group.

Geraldine Kay, Chief Executive for Derwentside Homes, said: “I’m immensely proud that we have been shortlisted for such a prestigious national award and would like to congratulate The Store and the efforts of my colleagues and our partners to bring it to fruition.

“The project is a major step forward in tackling financial exclusion by providing local people with access to goods at competitive interest rates and encouraging saving at the same time.

“At a time when many of our tenants are struggling to make ends meet, cheaper credit is important.

“It frees money up to meet essential costs like rent, food and fuel and means there is more available to spend in the local economy.”

The Assessor’s feedback from the BITC’s Responsible Business Awards thought the programme was innovative, although not necessarily unique.

They commended the support from partner organisations and praised the success of the programme.

To date, The Store has issued 730 loans, totalling £407,950, saving the local economy up to £163,180 based on comparisons with alternative weekly lenders.

Residents can choose how to pay for their products that range from furniture, electrical and white goods through weekly instalments that pay for them at a price 40% less than their competitors.

Through joining The Store, residents are automatically enrolled in the PBCB, where 25p from each payment is put into a savings account which encourages them to save for the future.

The PBCB is a community bank owned and run by its members that offers low cost loans to residents within County Durham.

So far £12,606 has been saved by residents in their credit union account and there has been a 72% increase in the amount that residents save weekly with customer satisfaction of 95%.

Lesley Richardson General Manager of PBCB, said: “Being shortlisted for this award recognises the hard work which everyone has contributed in making this venture such a success.

“The demand for our services which we have seen in such a short period reflects the current pressure on family household budgets and the interest we have received from other housing associations throughout the UK, who wish to adopt The Store demonstrates that this service is required nationwide.”

By working in partnership with the local credit union, and promoting regular saving, the project aims to tackle issues of financial exclusion, and deter local people from turning to loan sharks and other illegal money lenders.

Nicola Wilary, a County Durham resident contacted The Store after a bad experience with BrightHouse.

The 35-year-old said: “I had been paying £35 a week for a television and sofa and it was becoming a real struggle.

“The Store was great, they arranged for my original items to be returned and provided new ones, and the best thing is now I only pay £18 a week.”

Nicola, who has a five-year-old son Alexander and a baby daughter, said: “The service at The Store is much more personal and friendlier than the big companies and the best thing is you can pay a bit extra and put it into your savings account.

“Alex already had an account through school so now we can save together.”

The awards will be presented at a glittering ceremony in London on July 8.

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