Redbridge council forks out £984,000 in emergency housing payments for benefit claimants

Department for Work and Pensions figures show Redbridge Council paid �984,300 in Discretionary Housi

Department for Work and Pensions figures show Redbridge Council paid �984,300 in Discretionary Housing Payments during the year to March. Picture: PA/Joe Giddens - Credit: PA

Redbridge Council paid out £984,000 last year to help benefit claimants struggling with housing costs.

A leading think tank has warned more action will be needed to help struggling renters, as hundreds of thousands fewer people are employed across the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Discretionary housing payments are given to people who qualify for housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit, and who are struggling with housing costs.

The government sets DHP funding for local authorities each year, with councils having to dip into their own funds if demand exceeds their allocation.

Last year, Redbridge Council exceeded its government allocation by 8 per cent, or £74,000.

In May, the government announced funding for councils would increase by £40million in 2020-21, to £179.5m, citing “affordability pressures” in the rental market.

Redbridge Council is set to receive £1.6m, an increase of 76pc on last year.

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Karl Handscomb, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “The current crisis has pushed three-quarters of a million employees out of work, increased the number of households impacted by the benefit cap, and seen more private renters falling into arrears.

“All of these factors will have in turn increased demand for discretionary housing payments.

“The increased demand is likely to remain elevated while the crisis is still with us, highlighting both the need for the welcome additional housing support announced in March, and for more action to support renters struggling to pay for their homes.”

Of the total awarded in Redbridge last year, £299,090 went to helping people who were in difficulties because of welfare reforms.

The main cause of financial hardship was the benefit cap, accounting for £161,800.

The cap, introduced in 2013, limits the total amount of benefits a person can receive to £15,410 per year, or £23,000 for a couple or single parent.

A further £51,300 went to people affected by the so-called bedroom tax, which reduces housing benefits for people with a spare bedroom.