Monday, 06 July 2015

Bedroom tax prompts surge in applications for discretionary housing payments

Councils swamped with demand for welfare fund

More councils across Britain are reporting a surge in demand for an emergency hardship fund following the introduction of the bedroom tax.

Inside Housing last Thursday revealed eight local authorities have experienced a sharp jump in the number of applications from claimants for discretionary housing payments since 1 April.

Now 15 more councils have also revealed increased applications for DHPs (see box).

Glasgow Council has received 5,501 DHP applications in April, compared to 1,437 in the same period last year. Liverpool Council received 1,265 applications in April compared with 138 in a typical month, while Sheffield Council received around 1,400, compared with an average of just 100 per month throughout the 2012/13 financial year. Of these 1,400, Sheffield Council has made 600 awards totalling £140,000. A spokesperson said: ‘Sheffield Council’s DHP grant for 2013-14 is £995,802.

‘We have estimated that Sheffield’s social housing tenants will see a total shortfall in housing benefit as a result of the bedroom tax of more than £4.5 million in 2013.’

Twelve other local authorities also reported increases: Spelthorne, Oxford, Harlow, Amber Valley, Suffolk Coastal, Maldon, Wycombe, Welwyn and Hatfield, Telford and Wrekin, Craven, Eastbourne and Derbyshire Dales councils. These 12 English councils reported combined DHP applications of 1,070 in April this year, compared with 252 in the same period last year.

DHPs are intended as a short-term measure to help people who are finding it difficult to cover their living costs due to welfare reforms. The government expanded the DHP pot from £60 million last year to £150 million for 2013/14, with £25 million earmarked for disabled people hit by the bedroom tax who have had their homes significantly adapted. Under the bedroom tax, social housing tenants of working age deemed to have spare rooms have their benefit cut.

Councils to report increased DHP applications since the introduction of the bedroom tax:

  • Amber Valley
  • Birmingham
  • Craven
  • Derbyshire Dales
  • Eastbourne
  • Glasgow
  • Harlow
  • Hull
  • Leeds 
  • Leicester
  • Liverpool
  • Maldon
  • Oxford
  • Sefton
  • Sheffield
  • Southampton
  • Southwark
  • Spelthorne
  • Suffolk Coastal
  • Telford & Wrekin
  • Waltham Forest
  • Welwyn & Hatfield
  • Wycombe

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