HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds has been handed out to residents in need of extra help with housing costs, figures reveal.

Department for Work and Pensions data show council's across mid Essex have paid over £350,000 in Discretionary Housing Payments in 2020-21.

Braintree Council has paid a total of £252,600, 82 per cent of the of the £307,762 pot given to the authority by the Government.

That allocation was a 30 per cent increase on the previous year, the figures show.

The cash is intended to provide those already in receipt of housing benefits with extra help such as covering rent shortfalls or the costs of moving.

The money helped 304 claimants across the district- 46 more than the year prior.

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Across England and Wales, councils spent £171 million on Discretionary Housing Payments, with 103 of 327 local authorities spending above the Government’s contribution despite a £40 million increase in funding on the previous year.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the level of pressure on low income families, with many councils across England and Wales spending more than their allocated pot to help struggling benefit claimants.

A spokesman for the LGA said: "The fact that many councils put additional funding into Discretionary Housing Payments on top of their government allocation during a year when we have seen other protections brought in due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as a ban on evictions and the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit, shows the level of pressure likely to be on low-income households.

“We are concerned about what the impact the removal of these protections will have on low-income households, many of whom have built up debt and arrears during the pandemic."