Hundreds of Mansfield families given help with housing costs during pandemic
Hundreds of families received more than £130,000 worth of extra help with their housing costs from Mansfield District Council during the Covid pandemic.
However, there are fears that as the payments ease, many low-income families will struggle to cope, and many might be evicted from their homes.
The money, known as Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), is government cash handed out by local councils to benefit claimants.
It is intended to provide them with extra help, such as covering rent shortfalls or the costs of moving.
And with the Covid-19 crisis and lockdowns heaping pressure on worse-off families, the money has come in very handy.
Data from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) shows that Mansfield District Council helped 502 claimants in 2020/21 at the height of the pandemic. This was 250 more than the previous year.
A total of £130,800 in DHPs was handed out, which represented 80 per cent of the £163,351 pot given to the council by the government.
Across England and Wales, councils spent an average of 94 per cent of their allocations. In total, £171 million was spent on DHPs, with 103 of 327 councils going above their limit and putting in additional funding of their own.
However, the Local Government Association (LGA) is now worried that if government help subsides, along with other pandemic protections, low-income families will hit rock-bottom.
A spokesman said: "DHP funding for the current year has already dropped back to pre-pandemic levels.
“We are concerned about the impact the removal of protections, such as a ban on evictions and the £20 increase to Universal Credit, will have on low-income households. Many of them will have built up debt and arrears during the pandemic.
"The LGA would like to see a review of the DHP scheme, alongside other safety-net funding, to ensure that councils have adequate, sustainable funding.”
For Mansfield District Council, Jill Finnesey, head of housing, said: “DHPs are assessed in line with the guidance provided by the government and on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a claimant’s income, expenditure and personal circumstances such as health, household and support needs.
“Help is available for those who are struggling with their finances or are at risk of eviction.
"For example, if someone who receives Universal Credit is struggling to manage their finances, they can apply to the DWP to pay their rent directly to their landlord.
"The council employs specialist officers to support tenants and residents with both debt advice and welfare benefits.
“If someone is concerned about losing their home due to rent arrears, they should contact the council’s housing solutions team for advice as soon as possible.
"They may also be referred to the ‘Call Before You Serve’ service, which has been set up to provide support and advice to tenants and landlords to help prevent evictions.”
The government stresses it has taken unprecedented action to protect renters during the pandemic.
A spokesman said: “Support for private renters is significantly higher than it was before the pandemic, as a result of us increasing and maintaining local housing allowance rates in recent years.
"We have also provided more than £1 billion in DHP funding since 2011 to support thousands of families.”