Wakefield City Council spends thousands of pounds a day on emergency housing payments for vulnerable people

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

Department for Work and Pensions data show that the council spent £445,257, between April and September 2018, on helping people on benefits who are struggling to cover housing costs.

The Government awarded the council £997,585 for the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for the 2018-19 financial year.

In the first six months, Wakefield City Council spent almost half of its annual budget. This equates to £2,433 a day.

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 51% was due to the removal of the spare room subsidy.

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.

Funding for the scheme in 2018-19 is less than it was last financial year, when the council was awarded £1.08 million.

Wakefield spent almost all of its allocated funding last year.