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Councils forced to meet housing benefit shortfall<

Local authorities are having to dig into their own budgets to help people meet housing costs, according to government figures.

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Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that 165 councils used their own money to top up discretionary housing payments – a fund which is designed to help claimants with housing costs if their housing benefit does not cover it.

Birmingham Council had the highest extra spend, at £316,952. Its original allocation from the government was £672,346.

A spokesperson for Birmingham Council said the funding had been increased for a new project to provide housing benefit at pre-work rates for people starting back at work: ‘The project ran for two years from 2010 making payments to over 1,500 people,’ she said.

In total, £2,352,936 was put forward by 380 councils to add to the DHP fund in 2010/11, the final year before local housing allowance rates were cut for new claimants.

But other councils did not spend all of their allocation, leaving £990,272 of the £20 million allocated unclaimed by councils in England, Scotland and Wales.

The figures were obtained through a freedom of information request submitted by housing consultant Claire Turner, director of the Landlord Information Network. ‘Feedback from LIN members shows that many social sector landlords are often unaware that this pot of money exists - we would urge social sector landlords to up their game and support tenants suffering hardship in making a DHP claim,’ she said.

A DWP spokesperson said the government is providing local authorities with an extra £130 million to help people who are affected by changes to the local housing allowance.

You can look at the Freedom of Information data for all councils by clicking here.<

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