More than £20 million meant to help people struggling with housing costs following benefit reforms wasn't spent by local councils last year, new figures reveal. But if you're affected, it's not too late to apply for help this year.

The Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) scheme means local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales can give money to people experiencing difficulties with housing costs who either qualify for housing benefit or for the housing costs element of universal credit. (Use our free Benefits Calculator to see what you're entitled to.)

But of the £180 million put aside for DHP in the year up to April, £20 million wasn't given to those in need and has gone back to the Treasury.

The cash was meant to help people adjust to last year's benefits shake-up, which saw housing benefit reduced for some with a spare room and a cap introduced on the total amount of state benefit people can claim.

Government figures say 63% of councils paid out less than their total DHP allocation to tenants, leaving £13.3 million left over. A further £7.1 million was unspent because councils didn't apply for extra funding.

Contact your council campaigns manager Wendy Alcock, says: "This money was put in place to help people get used to changes in their financial circumstances.

"The fact that there's a massive £20 million that hasn't been given out is disappointing – local councils and the Government should be doing more to ensure households know about the help available.

"However it's not too late to apply for this financial year's £165 million fund. So if you need help, get in touch with your local authority now to find out how to apply."

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud says: "We urge people who may need additional help to contact their local authority."