The Welsh Liberal Democrats Housing Spokesperson, Peter Black has expressed his concern that many local councils are holding back the money they should be using to support tenants through the Welfare Benefit changes and are putting in place unreasonable barriers to special payments to help with rent.
Mr. Black was responding to the findings in a Welsh Government monitoring report that showed that halfway through the financial year, only 3 of 22 local authorities had spent more than half of their annual discretionary housing payment budget. This money has been given to councils by the UK government to help disabled people and others, who might otherwise be unfairly penalised by what has become known as the 'bedroom tax'.
In addition the report finds that the vast majority of Welsh Councils treat Disability Living Allowance as income, even though it is paid on the basis of independent assessments and should be used to cover additional costs associated with disability. Many councils also treat child benefit as income for these purposes. The Department of Work and Pensions disregard both Disability Living Allowance and child benefit for means-tested benefits.
Mr. Black said: "Local Authorities are saving their Discretionary Housing Payments for a rainy day, but for tenants making applications the storm has already happened and they need the money now. Without this support tenants will be making choices between heating and food, they will be getting into arrears or using payday loan companies to make ends meet.
"It is worrying that so few local authorities know how many applications are from disabled tenants. It is also deeply troubling that in one local authority only 20% of disabled applicants have been successful. And I am disappointed that 21 of the 22 local authorities consider Disability Living Allowance to be part of a person's income when even the Department of Work and Pensions disregard these payments.
"The Welsh Government needs to work with councils to overcome these barriers to people getting the help and financial assistance they are entitled to. The last thing we want is for this money to be sent back to the Treasury in April because councils have not been able to spend it where it is needed."