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South Tyneside Homes scoops national award

South Tyneside Homes has won a prestigious national award for its work to support tenants through changes to the benefit system.

The company's Welfare Reform Team scooped first prize at the National Federation of ALMOs' awards last month.

The team, which was established in February 2013, impressed judges with its approach to helping and engaging with tenants during benefit changes, including the introduction of the 'bedroom tax' and preparing for Universal Credit.

It was praised for its tailored, customer-focused service which includes a home visiting service, weekly outreach sessions in local offices and excellent partnership working.

Councillor Ed Malcolm, Chairman of South Tyneside Homes' board, said: "This is a fantastic accolade and testament to the hard work and dedication of the team, which has led to them exceeding all their targets.

"The officers have played a vital role in managing the impact of benefit reform and this award recognises that.

"South Tyneside Council deserves credit for having the foresight to establish and fund the roles within this team, in a bid to provide as much as support as possible to the people affected as these changes came into force."

The team offers a wealth of support and guidance on benefits, debt concerns, employment rights and housing issues.

It has also delivered training to more than 40 tenants to enable them to provide basic advice and signposting to local communities.

Cllr Allan West, Lead Member for Housing and Transport, said: "The Government's reform programme has been the biggest change to the welfare system in more than 60 years.

"As we anticipated, demand for help and support has risen over the last year as people feel the pinch.

"The Welfare Reform Team has played an absolutely invaluable role in guiding them through this difficult period and the award is very well deserved."

South Tyneside Homes' 'Energy Matters' campaign to tackle fuel poverty also reached the final in the category for managing energy efficiency.

The campaign is a targeted drive to install energy measures, provide energy training and advice, and work with local innovators to trial new energy products.