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Funding for emergency rent help is cut by £10k
MONEY to support people hit by the “bedroom tax” has been cut by more than £10,000, it has been revealed.
Oxford City Council’s discretionary housing payments (DHP) grant is used to help people facing homelessness should they not be able to cover their rent.
But the pot has been cut from £525,369 in 2013/14 to £514,496 this year, 2014/15.
This is despite a council report claiming demand could rise for the payments, which are aimed at helping short-term crises.
Suzy Drohan, manager of Oxfordshire Welfare Rights, which helps people with their benefit claims, raised concerns.
She said: “We wouldn’t welcome any cuts to the most vulnerable. We know what a difference it can make.
“I view the payments not as an open-ended solution but it might buy you time to sort your issues out.
“It may be the discretionary housing payment is what they need to get by.
“Some people might not be applying for it when they should be, so there is the awareness of doing it.”
Residents can apply for the payments if their housing benefit does not cover their rent and they risk becoming homeless.
In March the Oxford Mail reported the Labour-run council had to hand back a £100,000 underspend to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – which gives out the cash – for 2013/14.
The council underspent by £200,000 last year, but was able to keep half of that.
Last year a total of 802 payments – for 498 people – were granted out of 1,006 applications.
Executive board member for benefits and customer services Susan Brown said a delay in rolling out ‘Universal Credit’ – where benefits are combined – in 2013/14 meant there were fewer claims than expected.
But demand for DHP could rise when it is introduced and some see their benefits cut, she said.
A DWP spokesman said the council had managed its budget “carefully”.
He said: “Last year we gave local authorities £180m in DHP funding to help people through the introduction of our reforms, including a £20m reserve fund which councils could bid for. Oxford City Council did not apply.
“Our reforms are bringing fairness back to a social housing system in which around 300,000 households were living in overcrowded conditions while over 800,000 bedrooms went spare.”
The report was discussed by the council’s scrutiny committee on Tuesday.
- For details of how to apply for the paycall 01865 249811
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