Thursday, 18 July 2013

Teignbridge Hands Back Benefits Money

Money that could have been used to help hard-up households pay their rent and council tax has been handed back to the Government by Teignbridge Council. The Conservative-run authority failed to allocate all the £120,005 it was givenand sent back £9,683 which could have gone to families in need, says Lib Dem opposition leader on the council, Alan Connett. This year, Teignbridge has been given even more by the Government to help local families with their housing and council tax through the Discretionary Housing Payment system. A total of £186,222 has been awarded to Teignbridge, says Cllr Connett. He is concerned the council does all it can to help local people with their housing, rather than see money handed back to the Government. Last year, 181 cases were helped by the council with rent top-ups, advance payments and deposits, explained Cllr Connett. "The council really does need to make sure it uses all the money it has been given to help local people who are facing hardship. Average grants are around £25-£30 a week I am told, and the money sent back could have helped locally. It would have meant that money was used and benefitting the economy in Teignbridge." Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, says the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) may be claimed if people get housing benefit or council tax benefit, but are having difficulty paying the rest of the rent themselves. Residents may also be able to get the payments if their housing benefit has been cut because of the 'bedroom tax' or spare room subsidy. The council decides who should be given the payments. When the money for the year runs out, no more payments can be made. Discretionary housing payments (DHP) may be paid weekly, or can be a lump sum. They can also be backdated.A discretionary housing payment (DHP) may be used to pay for: •rent deposits •rent in advance •rent arrears (but not if you were receiving enough housing benefit to pay all of your rent at the time the arrears built up) •a shortfall between housing benefit and rent •reductions in housing benefit, after changes in April 2013 known as the 'bedroom tax' •reductions in local housing allowance resulting from changes from April 2011. Cllr Connett added: "There are rules and conditions about the discretionary housing payments, but my message is that people who think they need help or may qualify, should contact Teignbridge Council and not leave it. Last year money that could have helped local people was sent back to the Government."

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