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Housing payments ‘let people dodge the benefit cap’

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: March 10, 2014

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EMERGENCY funding set aside by councils to help struggling families should not be used to support people who have had their benefits capped, the Taxpayers Alliance has said.

North West Leicestershire District Council has become the latest authority in the region to consider allocating discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to people who have had their benefits capped, joining councils in East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire.

The move has been criticised by the alliance which said DHPs, issued as a short-term support measure for people struggling to meet rent or mortgage payments, should not be used to get around the cap, which was introduced to rein in how much money the unemployed can claim from the state after it emerged many out of work people were receiving more in a year than people with jobs.

The East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau said it supported any form of help being offered to people struggling to make ends meet and councils across the region said though people affected by the benefit cap would be considered for DHPs, each case would be judged on its own merits.

But Robert Oxley, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Discretionary housing payments are there to help those struggling with changes to housing benefit in the short term.

“They aren’t meant to be a way of circumventing the benefit cap. The cap is designed to ensure those on benefits aren’t better off on the dole than in work, but using budgets for DHP in this manner could fatally undermine principal and necessary incentives to find work.

“Use of these payments should only be used in very rare occasions, when a family faces real hardship and are not a long term solution.”

Michael Fitzpatrick, deputy leader for finance at East Staffordshire Borough Council, said: “The council has been supporting claimants affected by the benefit cap since it was introduced last summer.

Any claimant receiving housing benefit who is experiencing financial hardship with their rent can claim a discretionary housing payment.”

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