Thou­sands spent every day try­ing to help peo­ple at risk of home­less­ness

Coventry Telegraph - - News - By IS­ABELLE KIRK Data Re­porter

COVEN­TRY City Coun­cil has to spend thou­sands of pounds a day on emer­gency hous­ing pay­ments for vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple at risk of home­less­ness, fig­ures show.

The au­thor­ity spent £563,803 help­ing peo­ple on ben­e­fits who were strug­gling to meet their hous­ing costs be­tween April and Sep­tem­ber 2018 - more than half its an­nual bud­get.

The fig­ures, re­leased by the De­part­ment for Work and Pen­sions, means the coun­cil is spend­ing £3,081 every day to pre­vent home­lesness.

The gov­ern­ment awarded the coun­cil £1.01 mil­lion to run the Dis­cre­tionary Hous­ing Pay­ment (DHP) scheme for the 2018/19 fi­nan­cial pe­riod.

But in the first six months, more than half is gone.

Fund­ing for the scheme in 201819 is less than it was last fi­nan­cial year when the coun­cil was awarded £1.24 mil­lion.

Coven­try spent more than 90 per cent of its al­lo­cated fund­ing last year.

Cllr Ed Ruane, cab­i­net mem­ber for hous­ing and com­mu­ni­ties, said: “Based on our ex­pen­di­ture to date and fore­casted spend­ing, it is likely that the al­lo­ca­tion will just aboutbe enough to cover de­mand.

“We’ve also got schemes un­der­way to try and ad­dress the is­sue, in­clud­ing work to build mod­u­lar homes which can be in place ex­tremely quickly.”

Pay­ments can be awarded to claimants if they have been af­fected by spe­cific hous­ing poli­cies and could be at risk of home­less­ness, or if they have emer­gency costs un­re­lated to wel­fare re­forms.

Of the money spent so far, the largest pro­por­tion of 77 per cent was due to emer­gency cir­cum­stances, such as hav­ing to move house at short no­tice.

Home­less­ness char­ity Cri­sis said it was con­cerned that the Dis­cre­tionary Hous­ing Pay­ment scheme is un­sus­tain­able in the long term.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive, Jon Sparks, said: “To truly pre­vent peo­ple from be­com­ing home­less, we need more than stick­ing plas­ter so­lu­tions.”

Fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance char­ity Turn2us added that while the pay­ments are a “vi­tal source of in­come” for vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, they are not a long-term so­lu­tion to the hous­ing cri­sis.

Cam­paigns man­ager, Matthew Geer, said: “Wel­fare changes over the last decade are leav­ing coun­cils in­creas­ingly bur­dened, and funds are only lim­ited.

“While we would wel­come in­creas­ing the fund­ing for DHPs, this will not solve the prob­lem longterm and ul­ti­mately help to change the lives of peo­ple who are strug­gling.

“The Gov­ern­ment must stand up and act fast to end the ris­ing tide of home­less­ness across the coun­try in­clud­ing build­ing af­ford­able homes, tack­ling the is­sue of high rents and end­ing the on­go­ing ben­e­fits freeze.”

What the gov­ern­ment saysThe DWP said the scheme al­lowed lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to “pro­vide ad­di­tional sup­port to peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty with hous­ing costs”. A spokesman com­mented: “Since 2011 we have pro­vided around £1 bil­lion to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to make these pay­ments.”

For 2018-19, the DWP has awarded a to­tal of £153 bil­lion in DHP fund­ing across Eng­land and Wales.

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