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