A SCHEME that has helped 1,500 East Durham residents cope with welfare reforms has been introduced in Newton Aycliffe.

The Great Aycliffe and Middridge Welfare Champions initiative was officially launched at Woodham Community Centre today (Friday, March 28).

The project, which was devised by the East Durham Trust, sees residents undergo training to enable them to advise people in their neighbourhoods who have been adversely affected by the welfare reforms.

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This could be something as simple as translating a complex letter or signposting someone to an organisation that can help.

It has already been a success in East Durham, where 25 Welfare Champions have helped 1,500 people deal with benefit sanctions, public spending cuts, unexpected unemployment and a range of other unfortunate circumstances.

Great Aycliffe and Middridge Partnership and social housing and community organisation livin were keen to replicate the scheme in the Newton Aycliffe area and the East Durham Trust was happy to help.

Malcolm Fallow, chief executive of the trust, said: “We already have six trained Welfare Champions and hopefully more will come forward.

“I am delighted with the turnout here today. It shows there is a real sense of community spirit in Newton Aycliffe.

“The Welfare Champions project is so successful because many people prefer to turn to a friend or someone they know and respect within the community during difficult times.”

For more information contact East Durham Trust on 0191-569-3511 or info@eastdurhamtrust.org.uk