£57m paid out in Discretionary Housing Payments in six months

Scotland’s councils paid out almost £57 million in grants towards housing costs for those claiming housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit in a six month period, new figures have revealed.

Official statistics from the Scottish Government have shown that during the period 1 April to 30 September 2018, local authorities made 100,635 awards under the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) scheme, with a total value of £56.9m and an average award of £565.

The figures included “a sizeable number” of cases affected by the “bedroom tax”, where local authorities have continued to make up the shortfall in tenants’ weekly rent through the use of DHPs. The Scottish Government is committed to reimbursing Local Authorities for the impact of the RSRS.

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the amount of cash spent on this was “galling”.

She said making the payments was the “right thing to do”, with more than 70,000 households receiving help to stay in their homes as a result.

By the end of September this year, councils has spent 93% of the £60.9m the Scottish Government budgeted for DHPs for 2018-19.

Ms Somerville said: “These figures provide further evidence of the cost to Scottish ministers of protecting people from the very worst impacts of UK Government welfare reform.”

She added: “We are providing the necessary funding in this area because it’s the right thing to do, providing a lifeline for families and individuals already struggling to make ends meet.

“However, it is galling that we are spending so much on mitigating the worst effects of UK Government cuts and to support those on low incomes – £125m in total this year alone – £20m more than last year.

“We would much rather be spending those resources lifting people properly out of poverty rather than simply helping them keep their heads above the water.”

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