Benefit cuts cash ‘for the most needy’

LESS than £55,000 has been made available to help Whitby people most affected by impending cuts to housing benefit.

The Department for Work and Pensions has made the cash available to Scarborough Borough Council as part of a discretionary housing payment fund.

Fears have been raised that the reforms, the first of which are set to come into force in April, could lead to a drastic increase in homelessness.

However, Minister for Welfare Reform Lord David Freud said the payments would ensure a safety net for the most vulnerable.

Payments from the £54,355 will be allocated by the council to those in the greatest need.

The council received the cash as part of the £2 million grant for the whole of the Yorkshire and Humber region.

David Ponton-Brown, the council’s benefits manager, said: “The additional discretionary housing payment fund increase for Scarborough is welcomed as this will enable us to target those in greatest need.

“However this is only intended as short-term financial support and covers only a fraction of the overall monetary loss tenants claiming housing benefit in the private rented sector face over the next three years.

“We are writing to over 3,000 individual tenants over the coming months to explain what is happening and are undertaking a number of awareness sessions for residential landlords, registered social landlords and voluntary agencies.”

The changes to housing benefit will be introduced on a phased basis. At first only new tenants renting in the private sector will be affected, but existing tenants will see their weekly entitlement go down due to reductions in the way local housing allowance rates are calculated.

A full report to the council’s cabinet outlining the changes and the likely effects on the local economy was presented in December.

Changes that mean single people under 35 will only be paid benefit for a single room in a shared house will greatly increase the need for shared accommodation and houses in multiple occupation in Scarborough.

However, currently it is unknown whether the existing supply of shared housing within the borough will meet the increase in need.