Councils spend £100m to help struggling renters
Last year local authorities spent almost £100m on Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to help renters affected by welfare changes.
The figures, released by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), reveal that payments of £85.3m were made to help make up the rents of families affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy – also known as the ‘bedroom tax’, whilst just over £14m was paid to those who saw a welfare cut due to the Benefit Cap.
DHPs allow local authorities to help people with housing costs if their Housing Benefit does not meet the full rent they must pay. Central government has increased its contributions to the scheme since 2011 to help with the impact of welfare reform.
Many of the biggest spending councils were in Scotland
The new figures show that many of the biggest spending councils were in Scotland, as the Scottish National Party (SNP) parliament voted in 2014 to provide the full funds to councils to use DHPs. Glasgow and Edinburgh were the biggest overall spending councils, paying £8.6m and £4.5m respectively to help struggling tenants.
In England, 140 councils spent all of or more than their entire DHP allocation - Birmingham City Council spent the most, paying out £3.3m in DHPs. Councils which overspent said they did so to alleviate the effects of welfare cuts.
Chief Executive of Shelter
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the housing charity Shelter said: “The high demand for Discretionary Housing Payments shows the huge impact that welfare reforms and our drastic shortage of affordable homes are having.
“Thousands of struggling families have already come to us desperate for help as they battle against the double blow of sky-high housing and cuts to support. To fix this crisis for good, the government must commit to building homes that people on lower incomes can actually afford to live in, and in the meantime make sure families get the support they need to keep a roof over their heads.”
Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson
A DWP spokesperson said: "Local authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their residents, which is why we will have given them over £1bn in funding by the end of this Parliament for those who need extra support transitioning to our welfare reforms. We work together with local authorities so they receive the funding required for their local area's needs. Councils can also use some of their own grant funding to provide additional support."
If you’re struggling with your housing costs, make sure you are claiming the welfare support you are entitled to by using our Benefits Calculator, and use our Grants Search to see if you might be eligible for extra help from a charitable fund. Find out more about Discretionary Housing Payments and other support available on our Help with housing costs information page.