Rise in demand for ‘crisis’ handouts

Local elections. May 2008.'Graham Stokes. Labour. Knottingley.'w3843c819
Local elections. May 2008.'Graham Stokes. Labour. Knottingley.'w3843c819

Demand for crisis payments from an emergency rent fund are up almost 500 per cent just weeks after the government’s controversial “bedroom tax” came into force.

Wakefield Council had 1,443 applications for discretionary housing payments (DHP) in April, a rise of 494 per cent.

Almost 80 per cent of the applicants were people affected by the government’s spare room subsidy which came into force on April 1.

The subsidy cuts housing benefits for social housing tenants who have spare rooms in their property.

Pensioners and those with certain disabilities are exempt from the cut to benefits.

Wakefield Council said there were 18,000 calls to their benefits helpline in March, 3,000 more than in the same period last year.

Coun Graham Stokes, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “To support those experiencing exceptional hardship, we have a specific team focussed on dealing with discretionary housing payment applications.

“We have provided information through the website, a booklet and information days to help people prepare for these changes.

“We have also attended awareness sessions as well as other local events.”

Just over 75 per cent of DHP applications were still being processed.

On average, successful applicants get £232.12 from the emergency crisis fund to help with rent payments.

Wakefield Council said demand for payments peaked in April but had since returned to a “normal” level.

But the rise in demand for DHP came after fears were raised that a huge shortfall in crisis support could leave tenants at risk of eviction.

At the end of March, the council estimated that the bedroom tax and other cuts to benefits would leave the district’s households £4m a year worse off. Demand for DHP was expected to rise - but the local authority had only £750,000 to cover the payments.

For more information visit www.wakefield.gov.uk/benefitchanges.

lSee page 4 for more on

the ‘bedroom tax.’