Northampton Borough Council spent more than £150,000 in just six months on emergency housing payments

Northampton Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council

Northampton Borough Council has had to spend more than £150,000 in just six months on emergency housing payments for vulnerable people.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show that the council spent £176,068, between April and September 2018, on helping people on benefits who are struggling to cover housing costs.

The Government awarded the council £501,613 for the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for the 2018-19 financial year.

In the first six months, Northampton Borough Council spent more than a third of its annual budget.

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 37%, was due to emergency circumstances, such as moving house at short notice.

Financial assistance charity Turn2us said 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 long-term 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.”

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.”

The 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.

Last financial year, the council was awarded £545,641 in funding for the scheme.

Northampton was £12,958 over budget last year. Councils are allowed to overspend, but any extra spending comes out of its own funds.