East Devon District Council gives out £223,000 in emergency housing payments

PUBLISHED: 07:30 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:12 13 August 2019

Hundreds of people needed help with housing costs. Picture: Thinkstock

Hundreds of people needed help with housing costs. Picture: Thinkstock

Olci

Nearly 400 people struggling with their housing costs had to be helped out by East Devon District Council last year, to the tune of £223,400.

The payment figure has come from the Department for Work and Pensions and covers the 12 months to March this year.

The money was given out in discretionary housing payments, mainly from a fund allocated to local authorities by the Government.

These payments are awarded to people in difficulties who qualify either for housing benefit or the housing element of the new universal credit.

A spokeswoman for East Devon District Council said:

"We have helped around 287 customers who claimed housing benefit and 93 customers who were in receipt of universal credit housing costs.

"All awards were made to customers in difficulties, whether it was due to the benefit cap, removal of the spare room subsidy, LHA restrictions, in debt, struggling on a low income due to the welfare reforms, or a combination of those mentioned and other circumstances too.

"The awards have been to single people, couples, single parents, families, working-age or pensioners, with or without disability.

"Each customer's circumstances are looked at on an individual basis."

The amount spent on discretionary housing payments in East Devon has increased by 23 per cent since they were introduced in 2013-14.

Last year the amount paid out exceeded the Government allocation of funding by £19,000, meaning East Devon had to use money from its benefits budget.

The chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, has criticised the system.

"Discretionary housing payments are vital in many cases and can be the difference between people losing their home or not, but they shouldn't be a replacement for a fit-for-purpose welfare system," she said.

"These payments shouldn't be needed in the first place - they're simply a quick fix to structural problems," she said.

"To solve the underlying crisis for good, the Government must commit to building 3.1 million social homes in the next 20 years, as well as making sure housing benefit is enough to actually cover rents."

A DWP spokeswoman said the Government spent £23 billion a year helping people in the UK with their housing costs.

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