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Help at hand for some who struggle with rent

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: August 22, 2013

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Help is on hand for people who are struggling to pay for their home.

The City of Lincoln Council and North Kesteven District Council have, this year, been given more money by the Government as part of its Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) scheme and we are urging those most affected by welfare reform changes to apply for a share of the pot.

People who do not get the full amount of housing benefit and are struggling to pay their rent, or are having difficulties in finding rent in advance for a new property, can apply. The funding for this financial year is £215,000 for Lincoln and £104,000 for North Kesteven, which is double the amount compared with last year.

So far, 890 households in Lincoln are affected by the bedroom tax and yet only 192 have asked for a DHP. In North Kesteven 625 have been affected and only 65 have got a DHP.

Additionally, those families affected by the benefit cap are being encouraged to submit their applications. Housing benefit for private tenants has also been capped so, although the cost of the rent is going up, the amount of housing benefit is covering less of their rent. DHPs can help with this too.

The Local Government Association reported last week that poorer families will be £1,615 a year worse off by 2015/16 (£31 a week). Rent and other bills still keep going up.

In the last financial year more than 300 local councils failed to spend all of their Discretionary Housing Payment funds and had to pay the unspent funds back to the Government. The Government is suggesting that most families are able to cope with the cuts but DHP are there to help those who need it.

It would be a real shame if we had to pay back surplus DHP funds to the Government because people who need this money in Lincoln or North Kesteven had not put in an application.

There is emerging evidence that rent arrears for council housing and housing associations and private tenants are increasing but people are not claiming Discretionary Housing Payments to help them pay their rent when they are struggling.

Government reported last week that homelessness cases had increased nationally by 6 per cent last year. The housing benefit cuts this year will accelerate this unless households claim the DHP now.

We have contacted all those affected by welfare reform changes to highlight the DHP fund and are this week sending letters out again, but if you know anyone who is struggling with paying their rent it is essential that you highlight this article to them.

Anyone wanting to claim a DHP doesn't need to be put off by the application process as we will help anyone who needs it to fill in the forms and will work through the documents with them.

The most important thing is that they get their claim in as this money could really help them and take away some of the strain.

Additionally, the council provides a free money advice service to help people cope with debt and budgeting if needed.

For more information, e-mail welfarereform@lincoln.gov.uk, call the city council on 01522 873355 or NK on 01529 414155, or pop in to City Hall or North Kesteven's offices in Sleaford or North Hykeham.

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