Borough's emergency housing pay-outs top £220k

The Government awarded the authority 724,882 for the Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme
The Government awarded the authority 724,882 for the Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme
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Wigan Council has had to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in just six months on emergency housing payments for vulnerable people.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show that the council spent £222,688, between April and September 2018, on helping people on benefits who are struggling to cover housing costs.

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The Government awarded the council £724,882 for the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for the 2018-19 financial year.

In the first six months, Wigan Council spent almost a third of its annual budget.

Payments can be awarded to claimants if they have been affected by specific housing policies and could be at risk of homelessness, or if they have emergency costs unrelated to welfare reforms.

Of the money spent so far, the largest proportion, 70 per cent, was due to the removal of the spare room subsidy.

Financial assistance charity Turn2us said that while the payments are a “vital source of income” for vulnerable people, they are not a long-term solution to the housing crisis.

Campaigns manager Matthew Geer said: “Welfare changes over the last decade are leaving councils increasingly burdened, and funds are only limited.

“While we would welcome increasing the funding for DHPs, this will not solve the problem long-term and ultimately help to change the lives of people who are struggling.

“The Government must stand up and act fast to end the rising tide of homelessness across the country – including building affordable homes, tackling the issue of high rents and ending the ongoing benefits freeze.”

Homelessness charity Crisis said it was concerned that the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme is unsustainable in the long term.

Chief executive Jon Sparks said: “To truly prevent people from becoming homeless, we need more than sticking plaster solutions.”

The DWP said the scheme allowed local authorities to “provide additional support to people experiencing financial difficulty with housing costs”.

A spokesman said: “Since 2011 we have provided around £1bn to local authorities to make these payments.”

For 2018-19, the DWP has awarded a total of £153bn in DHP funding across England and Wales.

Funding for the scheme in 2018-19 is more than it was last financial year, when the council was awarded £685,485.

Wigan spent almost all of its allocated funding last year.