Applications for housing benefit in Dundee rise sharply

The number of Dundee families who have been forced to apply for housing benefit has multiplied more than 20 times in the past five years.

As a result, an extra £2.2 million has been paid to city households.

A report which will go before Dundee City Council’s policy and resources committee on Monday revealed that 4,786 vulnerable households were given a discretionary housing payment (DHP) in the financial year 2016/17, totalling £2.29m.

So far this financial year, there have been 3,900 applications and a total of £2.31m has been paid or committed.

The figure represents a sharp rise on 2011/12 when 200 families were awarded £69,634.

Executive director of corporate services Greg Colgan said the local authority was working to ensure that city families were claiming the benefits they were entitled to.

He said: “We continue to work to support families to ensure the correct benefits are being claimed.

“To date, all those who have been affected by the benefit cap and have applied for a DHP have had any shortfall fully mitigated from the DHP fund.”

In his report, Mr Colgan also asked the committee to be aware of the effects of the roll-out of Universal Credit.

He added: “I would recommend that the committee notes the implications in terms of increased debt, potential increases in homelessness and demand for advice services from various organisations and the voluntary sector.

“The impact of welfare reforms in the UK will result in an estimated annual loss of £94 million in Dundee by 2021.”

Mary Kinninmonth, of Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau, said the figures show there is something for people to fall back on. She added: “The introduction of Universal Credit in Dundee is going to add further stress on the council in its effort to give out payments.

“The council is reacting to this with payments for householders but the fact that people are having to claim for these shows that something has gone wrong elsewhere in the social security system.”

Michelle Harrow, Shelter Scotland Dundee Community Hub manager, said: “These figures show the daily struggles faced by far too many households in Dundee trying to keep a roof over their head and simply survive.”