Doncaster Council overspends nearly £50,000 to help struggling residents in the pandemic

Doncaster Council overspent by nearly £50,000 during the pandemic to give extra support to residents struggling with housing costs last year, figures reveal.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 1:07 pm

The Local Government Association said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the level of pressure on low income families, with many councils across England and Wales spending more than their allocated pot to help struggling benefit claimants.

Department for Work and Pensions data shows Doncaster Borough Council paid £953,900 in Discretionary Housing Payments in 2020-21.

The cash is intended to provide those already in receipt of housing benefits with extra help such as covering rent shortfalls or the costs of moving.

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The money was used to help struggling residents

It means Doncaster Borough Council spent £49,954 more than the £903,953 pot given to the authority by the Government.

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That allocation was already a 34 per cent increase on the previous year, the figures show.

The money helped 2,286 claimants across Doncaster in 2020-21 – 321 more than the year before.

Debbie Hogg, Director of Corporate Resources at Doncaster Council said: “We are committed to supporting our most vulnerable Doncaster residents by providing extra financial support to those most in need.

“As well as helping the most vulnerable claimants, we continue to support many people still affected by the Welfare Reforms of 2013, including those who have a shortfall due to the spare room deduction (Bedroom tax) and those who are affected by the Benefit Cap.

“Last year also saw an increase in awards for those requiring one-off help towards housing costs for moving into a more settled home. These were for people who had been placed in temporary accommodation, often due to homelessness, that were then found a more stable home. However, they needed financial help towards moving costs, rent in advance or deposits.

“The budget is continuously monitored and we will carry on making decisions in accordance with our policy to help the most vulnerable.”

Across England and Wales, councils spent £171 million on Discretionary Housing Payments, with 103 of 327 local authorities spending above the Government’s contribution despite a £40 million increase in funding on the previous year.

A spokesman for the LGA said: "The fact that many councils put additional funding into Discretionary Housing Payments on top of their government allocation during a year when we have seen other protections brought in due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as a ban on evictions and the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit, shows the level of pressure likely to be on low-income households.

“We are concerned about what the impact the removal of these protections will have on low-income households, many of whom have built up debt and arrears during the pandemic."

They added that Discretionary Housing Payment funding for the current year had dropped back to pre-pandemic levels.

“The LGA would like to see a review of the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme, alongside other safety net funding, to ensure councils have adequate, sustainable funding and can provide a safety net for their residents without seeing other services affected,” the spokesman said.

The Government said it has taken unprecedented action to protect renters during the pandemic, including banning evictions and increasing the local housing allowance rates, used to calculate housing benefits.

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