Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP has announced £5 million additional investment to support tenants under financial pressure during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The extra funding, announced during the Stage 3 debate of the emergency Coronavirus (2nd) (Scotland) Bill, will go to North Ayrshire Council and other local authorities to support tenants through the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) scheme.
With the inclusion of this £5 million, the SNP Government has now put £77.1 million support into its Discretionary Housing Payment fund to support tenants struggling with their housing costs or affected by the bedroom tax, where Universal Credit or Housing Benefit does not cover the cost of their rent.
Already committed were £60 million on mitigation of the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ which is reserved and which the SNP Government therefore cannot abolish; £10.9 million on other DHPs paid already; Administrative funding of £1.2 million.
Mr Stewart said:
“We all know that the wider impacts of Covid-19 are increasing pressures on households and leading to greater financial hardship, including paying rent. Many more people will now be on benefits for the first time and be subject to the UK Government’s benefit cap while others will have seen their household income decrease substantially and may be struggling to pay their rent.
“We have been looking closely at how to support people during the crisis and I am pleased to announce that we are increasing the amount we have made available for other DHPs - those that are available outside of our full mitigation of the bedroom tax, by a further £5 million to almost £16 million. This will support tenants under severe financial pressure where the UK welfare state is not providing the safety net it should.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“Any extra funding is welcomed, because DHP is a hugely helpful resource for those in a tight spot, more often than not as a consequence of Tory Government austerity imposed through the ‘Bedroom Tax.
“In financial year 2019/20, the SNP Government allocated £2,364,410 in DHP funding to North Ayrshire Council. Of that funding, £2,014,880 was spent on mitigating the ‘Bedroom Tax’ alone. I dread to think of the position many people would find themselves in if it wasn’t SNP policy to mitigate that.
“If you claim Housing Benefit or receive housing cost payments through Universal Credit and need financial help because your benefit is less than the full amount of your rent, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) can help cover this.
“The funding is administered by local authorities, so visit the NAC website to find out if you are eligible and how to apply.”
DHP is not for covering the cost of things included in your rent (e.g. fuel, water, food).