People in receipt of Housing Benefit who are struggling to meet their housing costs are being encouraged to apply for extra help that is available from Fenland District Council.
The council is keen to ensure that those in most need do not miss out. It is holding a series of surgeries in its one-stop shops across the district next week (July 8-12) to raise awareness of its Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) scheme. Some households will also be directly targeted with information about the scheme.
Local authorities have been given additional funding from the Government to enable them to provide some short-term help to those for whom housing benefit does not meet their full needs.
The demand for such assistance compared to previous years is expected to increase significantly because of the major welfare reforms now being implemented. These include cuts to housing benefit if a claimant’s home is deemed too big for their needs - popularly known as the “bedroom tax” - and the overall benefits cap.
Fenland District Council has been allocated £146,000 for distribution as discretionary housing payments in 2013/14 – up from about £50,000 in previous years.
Payments can be made for various purposes, including help with rent deposits or moving costs or to tide people over while they prioritise their outgoings and consider what changes they can make to manage their rent themselves in the longer term.
The awards are discretionary. Every applicant will receive an initial financial assessment; where appropriate they will be advised of other benefits they may be entitled to and encouraged to make any budgetary changes that would ease their situation.
Housing associations, including Roddons, are doing their best to help households move to smaller properties where necessary. However, there are limited numbers of smaller properties available.
Also, some people, such as the disabled, find it difficult to move because their home may have been specially adapted for their needs.
The council can only make short-term awards because of the fixed budget but customers will be able to re-apply if their circumstances haven’t improved.
Councillor John Clark, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for benefits, said: “We want to make the
best use of this additional money and ensure that it goes to the most vulnerable people and those in most need.
“Anyone who feels they may be entitled to extra help should contact us or come along to one of our surgeries so that we can discuss their particular situation.”