Benefit top-up delays hit needy, says report

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Residents in Ashfield have been turning to advice workers for help to beat hardship following the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’.

Since the introduction of under-occupancy restrictions to housing benefit in April, staff at Ashfield Citizens Advice Bureau have helped 21 people apply for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to meet their income shortfall,

A report by the service suggests that without the payments some of its most vulnerable clients would be at risk of debt and potential homelessness.

But, following a survey, the report concludes that distress is being caused by delays processing claims and the fact that the awards, made by councils, are usually for a short time.

More than three quarters of the claimants are receiving benefits for long-term health issues and it was noted that many had a limited understanding of the outcomes of their claims due to mental health issues.

The report states: “While DHP have relieved the financial burden of under occupancy restrictions, it is clear that the temporary nature of the payments adds to the distress and confusion of people already living in challenging circumstances.

“This is exacerbated by lengthy delays in awarding payments which have resulted in rent arrears and other indebtedness for some of our clients. Whilst we appreciate the DHP is not a long term solution we feel it would be to the advantage of clients, local authorities and housing associations if decisions could be made more quickly and the award period could be extended.”