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18 February 2014, 18:09
Hard-up families struggling to pay living costs will get extra help thanks to Newcastle City Council winning a major share of Government money.
Following a bid to the Department for Work and Pensions, the council has been awarded the full £861,000 in additional funding which will go some way to helping the level of need that exists in the city due to the spare room subsidy more commonly known as the bedroom tax.
The money will be used for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) which the council gives to families who cannot afford the shortfall between their housing benefit levels and their rent, caused by the bedroom tax.
It gives hope to families who are yet to be assessed for financial assistance and further help to those who have received the payments but were coming to the end of their six-month period.
As a result, there should be fewer evictions for rent arrears and more support for families until they can find employment or learn new skills to help them earn an income and move off benefit.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said:
"For some time now the council has warned that families in the city are really suffering as a result of the welfare changes as proven by the growing use of food banks.
We put together a convincing case to Government and I'm pleased that we've received the full amount we asked for.
This is testimony to the level of need in the city, and the professionalism of all the staff from many organisations and charities who are working hard to alleviate the impact of the bedroom tax.
This money will give families more time to get themselves back on their feet, find employment and learn new skills so they can become more financially independent.
It should not be forgotten however that this funding - welcome as it is - is only a sticking plaster, and if the bedroom tax still exists next year many people could find themselves back struggling again."
Since April 1st last year the council has received 2,329 applications for DHP. Of those 664 were rejected and about 400 are yet to be assessed.
Of the 1,369 cases where DHP was awarded; 1,094 were for the bedroom tax; 69 for the benefit cap and 206 for financial hardship or other welfare reform changes such as single room rents.
Out of £685,271 initially given to the council, £615,765 has been spent or committed, leaving £69,506.