In a recent website item, I advised that additional monies had been given to local authorities for Discretionary Housing Payments to alleviate the distresses of the new Welfare Reform. If this money was not spent by the end of the financial year, it would have to be returned to Central Government.
Well, the figures are now in and more than £1million is unspent and therefore had to be returned. A survey by “Inside Housing” found the following surprising underspends:
Wandsworth – £544,783
Redbridge – £202,044
North Lincolnshire – £196,859
Harrow – £126,994
Barking & Dagenham – £88,665
South Ribble – £66,992
Wokington – £65,595
Two reasons were given in the article for why there were such large under-spends. Conservative-led Wandsworths’ spokesperson felt it was because the Treasury had over-estimated the impact of welfare reform, but that £1,294,640 had been allocated to needy families. It seems odd that an authority that needed to allocate so much, nevertheless had over half a million to return.
The other reason is perhaps more believable and is from the Policy and Practice Officer of the Chartered Institute of Housing, who believes that Councils had not been as proactive as necessary in advertising the funding that was available. That is perhaps the case, but as additional funding was given very late in the financial year, there was little time to advertise and encourage further claims.
Always encourage tenants who are not in receipt of full benefit to apply for a DHP. They could waste an hour or two applying and being told “no”. But they just might be successful and take some of the pressure off them.
By Sharon Betton