A COUNCIL has reminded people and businesses that help and support remains available during the current lockdown period.

Durham County Council wants to reassure those who need support to access essential supplies, or need support about money, housing, health or employment due to coronavirus or those in need of business support.

People are advised to seek help from friends, family and neighbours where possible, but a list of local support groups is available on the council’s website at durhamlocate.org.uk or people can complete an enquiry form at durham.gov.uk/covid19help.

Those enquiries will be directed to County Durham Together, a virtual community hub which can help people to access food supplies, local support organisations or the Chat Together service for those feeling lonely or isolated.

The hub can be emailed at help@durham.gov.uk or called on 03000-260260.

People may also be interested in helping to share key messages in their communities – if so they could become a Covid 19 community champion – those interested should email covidcommunitychampions@durham.gov.uk

Those told to self-isolate after contracting coronavirus through the test and trace, on or after September 28 either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have been in close contact with someone who has, and meets the eligibility criteria, may be entitled to a £500 support payment. For details visit durham.gov.uk/testandtracepayment

Businesses in County Durham which had to shut due to the new restrictions can get financial support through a number of initiatives, including the Local Restrictions Support Grant Scheme, which Durham County Council launches this week.

There are separate grants available for businesses that were affected by socialising restrictions during the Tier 2 local restrictions, between September 18 and November 4, and for businesses required to close as a result of the national lockdown, between November 5 and December 2.

Further assistance available from the government includes the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme; the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, which enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly during the coronavirus outbreak; and the Future Fund, which provides government loans to UK-based companies, application deadlines have now been extended to January 31, 2021.

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – also known as the Furlough scheme – will now remain open until the end of March 2021, with employees receiving 80 per cent of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. Businesses will be able to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time and will be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions.

Business Durham has produced a brochure outlining the support available, which is at businessdurham.co.uk/covid-19-recovery/covid-recovery-for-businesses/business-support-brochure/

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “We appreciate that this a difficult and unsettling period but please be aware that there is support available for individuals, families, businesses and their employees.

“We would continue to encourage people, where possible, to use their trusted network of family and friends in the first instance of need.

"However, I would also like to assure everyone that the council and our partners are here to help and to get in touch if you or someone you know could benefit from the support on offer.”

Other support includes:

• County Durham Jobs Fuse helps employers and jobseekers by promoting vacancies and providing tailored support to businesses. Individuals can also call the National Careers Service freephone number for advice on 0800-100900 or access resources at nationalcareers.service.gov.uk. Employers can ring 0808-1963596 or email to get tailored support at JobsFuse@educationdevelopmenttrust.com

• The government has introduced a Kickstart Scheme which provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Durham County Council is a Kickstart gateway with the potential for the creation of 200 to 260 new jobs as part of the scheme. For more information go to gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme

• DurhamWorks is supporting unemployed young people aged 16 to 24 to secure employment by providing small businesses with a salary grant of up to £2,500. More details are at durhamworks.info

• Employability Durham supports County Durham residents who are unemployed and over 25, to move into employment and training. For further information see durham.gov.uk/employability

• The Durham Savers Project, also run by the council, supports the financial well-being of people who live and work in County Durham. More details are available at durham.gov.uk/DurhamSavers