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Council pledges £150,000 to help residents in hardship.

Renfrewshire Council has pledged £150,000 towards a crucial support fund to make sure vulnerable residents facing hardship continue to receive help when they need it.

The Scottish Welfare Fund will be given the vital top up in the hope it will now last until the new fund arrives in April.

Councillor Mike Holmes, Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council, said: “Benefit changes and the spiralling cost of living have pushed families who were already struggling to the brink and we’ve been able to help many in need through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

“However without this £150,000 top up, the fund was likely to run out before the new allocation arrived in April, and leaving vulnerable people facing hardship without the support of the fund was absolutely not an option for this council.”

renfrewshire council logo .JPGCouncillor Holmes is also warning that the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) fund that’s helping to ease the ‘bedroom tax’ burden for local people could run out because a recent UK Government addition to the fund “is not enough”.

In November the council feared the fund would run out in January and asked the UK Government for £250,000 to ensure the safety net would last until the new fund arrives in April.

But in December the UK Government said Renfrewshire’s DHP pot would only be given an extra £105,000.

Councillor Mike Holmes added: “We’ve been doing all we can to help and support those who are struggling as a result of the bedroom tax – and our DHP fund plays a vital role in that. But the UK Government didn’t properly distribute DHP money among councils, and as a result they set our fund too low to cope with the pressures of benefit reform.

“We topped up this year’s fund with the maximum amount we’re allowed, but since bedroom tax was introduced, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of people coming to us for a DHP to help them cope.

“The DHP fund is not a solution to a policy which should be scrapped, but it has given vulnerable families short-term relief and if we continue to receive applications that meet the criteria at the same rate as we have, the current fund will run out before the new one begins. So the recent addition we received from the DWP is not enough.”

People who are facing crisis or hardship and would like to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund; or who receive Housing Benefit, are struggling to meet their housing costs and would like to apply to the DHP fund, should call 0300 300 0204.

The Finance and Resources Policy Board approved the £150,000 top up of the Scottish Welfare Fund; and was given an update on the position of the DHP fund at its meeting on Wednesday 22 January.

Council officers will continue to work with the DWP to find out if there will be a further opportunity to bid to the DHP reserve fund over coming weeks.

Between April 2013 and November 2013 the council received 3,351 DHP applications. For the same period during the previous financial year we received 310 DHP applications.