Councils overspend Discretionary Housing Payments by £3m

Local authorities in Scotland made just over 118,000 awards under the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) scheme during 2014/15, with a total value of over £50 million granted through to 31st March 2015, new statistics have revealed.

The figure was £3m more than the £47.2m initially allocated by the Scottish Government for DHPs.

Figures released by Scotland’s chief statistician show that between April 2014 and March 2015, local authorities received nearly 132,000 applications to the scheme, which provides financial assistance towards housing costs for those claiming housing benefit.

By the end of March 2015, around 130,000 of these claims had been processed and over 118,000 awards were granted. The average payment was around £429.

DHPs 2015
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Fourteen local authorities underspent their share of the £47.2m by just under £1.2m. However, of these authorities, South Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire spent over 99.5 per cent of their budgets.

Eighteen local authorities - Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, Aberdeenshire, North Ayrshire, Perth & Kinross, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Falkirk, Glasgow City, Renfrewshire, East Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Dundee City, Fife, East Lothian, Aberdeen City, West Lothian and East Dunbartonshire - spent more than 100 per cent of their funding so far confirmed for 2014/15, exceeding their current funding allocations by a total of around £4.5m

Housing minister Margaret Burgess said: “Discretionary Housing Payments are a lifeline for tenants who need extra help with housing costs or to offset the harmful effects of the bedroom tax which was introduced by the UK government in 2013 and affects over 70,000 Scottish households.

“The Scottish Government is providing £35m this year to ensure every local authority in Scotland will have sufficient funding to fully mitigate the bedroom tax whilst also protecting non ‘bedroom tax’ elements of DHPs.

“Using the new powers coming to Scotland, the Scottish Government will abolish the bedroom tax as soon as possible.

“We continue to do all we can to limit the damaging effects of the UK government’s welfare cuts which impacts on some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Our current and planned funding will result in an investment of around £296m over the period 2013/14 to 2015/16 to help those most in need.”

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, added: “These figures show the desperate circumstances faced by tens of thousands of households across Scotland on a daily basis, including the real threat of losing their homes because they can’t make ends meet.

“We urge every local authority to do all they can to help as many people as possible as a matter of urgency and anyone struggling to pay their rent to apply for help that is available. Failure to do so would mean that some people would face the very real threat of mounting rent arrears, eviction and homelessness.

“While a vital lifeline to people who need them, Discretionary Housing Payments are not a long-term solution. Shelter Scotland has been campaigning for an end to the unfair bedroom tax for years.

“This week’s Queen’s Speech is expected to outline the UK government’s commitment on more powers for Holyrood and we would urge Scottish Ministers to make good on their commitment to use the powers due to be devolved in this Bill to prioritise abolishing the bedroom tax for good in Scotland. It is only by permanently scrapping this unfair tax that we can put an end to the hardship it is causing for thousands of families and individuals across Scotland.”

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