THE government has given Bolton Council nearly £700,000 this year to help people hit by the so-called bedroom tax.

The £688,659 cash boost — most of which has been spent — was given to help people affected by changes to housing benefit.

The Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) for 2013-14 was initially £623,659, but a further payment of £65,000 was made after the first quarter to meet demand.

In 2012/13 the council received £623,659, but did not require the £65,000 boost.

Its allocation was increased from 2011/12 after the government trebled its national DHP budget from £60 million to £180 million to help people affected by the bedroom tax.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed it is set to commit a further £620 million to DHP payments to local authorites over the next three years, at an average of just over £200 million per year.

Bolton Council said the money is being used to help the most vulnerable people whose housing benefits have been reduced or are struggling to meet rent payments.

The DWP said the cash was so the council could “assist people affected by changes to housing benefits”.

Linda Charnock, chairman of protest group Bolton AGAINST Bedroom Tax, said not enough people are aware DHPs could be available to them.

She added: “We have people coming to us who are being badly disadvantaged by the bedroom tax but still have not even considered applying for DHP money.

“We are pointing them in that direction but that should be the role of housing associations.”

The council added it also receives other funding from the government to use on welfare provision but not specifically for housing benefit issues.

It also has committed a portion of its own budget over the next four years to delivering its Anti-Poverty Agenda.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “Discretionary Housing Payment is a yearly payment made by the government to every council and is based on each council’s spend on housing benefit.

“It allows us to provide support to vulnerable people with their housing needs in exceptional circumstances and provides a temporary measure of relief whilst they arrange a longer term solution.

“This payment is aimed at the most financially vulnerable and can be accessed through the council’s website or by phoning the contact centre.”

Bolton at Home has also adopted a no homelessness policy in relation to tenants forced into arrears by the removal of the spare room subsidy.

Chief executive Jon Lord said: “We're doing more to help tenants reduce bills, manage budgets, tackle debts, explore moving options and seek other potential benefits or payments such as means-tested discretionary housing payments.

“We've seen at firsthand the impact of the government's welfare cuts and bedroom tax.

“Our pledge means that any tenants evicted from their home due to rent arrears caused by the bedroom tax will be offered another home, providing they work with us and make efforts to address their arrears.”

Get in touch with Bolton Council via their website or by calling their contact centre if you think you might be eligible to benefit from the fund.