Discretionary Housing Payments were introduced on July 2, 2001.

The scheme now grants all Local Authorities the power to use its discretion to:

  • Alleviate poverty
  • Reduce Homelessness
  • Encourage and sustain Charnwood residents in employment
  • Safeguard Charnwood residents in their homes
  • Help those who are trying to help themselves
  • Keep families together
  • Support the vulnerable in the local community
  • Help claimants through personal crises and difficult events.

Payments can be made to: 

a) Top up shortfalls between rental liability and Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit.

  • The scheme is purely discretionary; a claimant does not have a statutory right to payment.
  • The amount that can be paid out by an Authority in any financial year is cash-limited by the Secretary of State.
  • The administration of the scheme is normally administered by the Benefit Service.
  • DHP’s are not a payment of Housing Benefit. However, the minimum amount of HB or UC Housing element, must be in payment in the benefit week that a DHP is awarded.

b) Offer a rent deposit and/or rent in advance when a customer already receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs begins renting a new property

c) Contribute towards moving costs under some circumstances where a customer is already receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs begins renting a new property

d) Contribute towards rent costs at a new temporary licensed accommodation where a customer’s move has been unavoidably delayed through no fault of their own.

What is a Discretionary Housing Payment?

If the amount of benefit we are paying you does not cover all of your rent you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to meet the shortfall.  This payment will be made separately to your normal award of Housing Benefit.

It cannot pay for any of the following:

  1. Ineligible Service charges for rent
  2. Charges for water, sewerage and environmental services
  3. Increases in rent due to rent arrears
  4. Local Council Tax Support
  5. Any reductions in Income support or Job Seekers Allowance due to not attending a work focussed interview or failing to comply with the Child Support Agency.

In addition, Charnwood Borough Council can also use this scheme to fund rental payments in advance or rent deposits and moving costs.

The Council will decide on the amount of any award and the length of time that an award will last. If you disagree with the refusal of an award, the amount of an award or the length of an award you can ask for the original decision to be looked at again. A different officer from the one who made the original decision will look at the decision.

Benefit Service Policy

Each case will be treated strictly on its merits and all customers will be treated equally and fairly.  The Benefit Service will seek through the operation of the scheme to: 

  • Alleviate poverty
  • Reduce Homelessness
  • Encourage and sustain Charnwood residents in employment
  • Safeguard Charnwood residents in their homes
  • Help those who are trying to help themselves
  • Keep families together
  • Support the vulnerable in the local community
  • Help claimants through personal crises and difficult events.

The Benefit Service considers the DHP scheme should be seen as a short time emergency fund.  It is not and should not be considered as a way round any current or future entitlement restrictions set out within the Housing Benefit legislation. 

Claiming a DHP

On request or in appropriate circumstances the Benefit Service will issue the claimant with a DHP application form.  The form includes an income and expenditure statement and the claimant will be asked for proof of certain items of expenditure which will need to be provided within one calendar month of the date the information is requested. 

DHP claims can be made online.

If the claimant is unable to or does not provide the required evidence the Benefit Service will still consider the application and will in any event take into account any other available evidence including that held on Housing Benefit files.

The Benefit Service reserves the right to verify any information or evidence provided by the claimant in appropriate circumstances.

Period of award

In all cases the Benefit Service will decide the length of time for which a DHP will be awarded. The decision will be based on the evidence supplied and the known facts. 

The minimum period that a DHP can be awarded for is one week, but normally the Benefit Service will award DHP for a period of not less than 13 weeks. 

  • The Benefit Service will not normally award a DHP for a period exceeding a year.  The claimant is advised that they can reapply at the end of their DHP award period if they still feel they need extra help.  

The Benefit Service considers any reasonable request for backdating an award, but any request will usually be limited to the current financial year.

In relation to a rent deposit or rent in advance application the amounts awarded will be considered in line with the current rental market, size of suitable property and any other relevant costs.

Awarding DHP

In deciding to award a DHP, the Benefit Service will consider:

  • A claimant’s or household member’s disability or any adaptations that may have been made to the home to accommodate a disability.
  • Whether there are foster children in the property
  • The amount of DHP available at the time of application
  • The shortfall between Housing Benefit and rental liability
  • The financial and medical circumstances of the claimant, their partner and any dependants and any other occupants of the claimant’s home.
  • The income and expenditure of the claimant their partner and any dependants or other occupants of the claimant’s home.
  • Any savings or capital that might be held by the claimant and their family
  • The level of indebtedness of the claimant and their family
  • The exceptional nature of the claimant and their family’s circumstances
  • The possible impact on the Council of not making an award i.e. the pressure on priority homeless accommodation.
  • The suitability and affordability of the property
  • Any other special circumstances brought to the attention of Benefit Services. 

The Benefit Service will decide how much to award based on all the circumstances. This may be an amount below the difference between liability and payment of Housing Benefit. An award of DHP does not guarantee a further award will be made later even if the claimant’s circumstances have not changed. 

Changes of circumstances

The Benefit Service may need to revise an award of DHP where a claimant’s circumstances have materially changed.

Method of payment

The Benefit Service will decide the most appropriate person to pay based upon the circumstances of each case.  In relation to rental payments, the frequency of payment will normally be made in line with how the claimants Housing Benefit/Universal Credit is paid.

Notification

The Benefit Service will inform the claimant of the outcome of their application.

Where the application is unsuccessful the Benefit Service will set out the reasons why the decision has been made and explain the right of review. 

Where the application is successful the Benefit Service will advise of 

  • The week amount of DHP awarded or the amount of rent deposit/rent in advance
  • The period of the award
  • How and when it will be paid 
  • The reasons for the award.
  • The requirement to report a change in circumstances 

The right to seek a review

DHP’s are not payments of Housing Benefit and are therefore not subject to the statutory appeals mechanism. 

Charnwood Borough Council Benefit Service operate the following policy for dealing with disputes about 

  • a refusal to award a DHP or
  • a decision to award a reduced DHP or
  • a decision not to award a DHP for a backdated period
  • a decision that there has been an overpayment of a DHP

A claimant who disagrees with a DHP decision can ask for it to be reviewed i.e.  looked at again.  A request for a review must be made in writing to the Benefit Service within one month of the date on the decision letter that they disagree with. 

The review will be looked at by another officer to the one who made the initial decision. A written decision letter will be sent to the claimant giving that officer’s reasons for coming to whatever decision is reached. 

Where the claimant is still not satisfied, they will only be able to challenge the decision via judicial review process or by complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. 

Overpayments

The Benefit Service may seek to recover any DHP found to be overpaid.  Normally this will involve issuing an invoice to the claimant or to the person to whom the award was paid.  Under no circumstances will recovery be made from any amounts of Housing Benefit due to the claimant, except if the claimant requests this method specifically in writing. The decision letter that notifies a customer of an overpayment will also set out the right of review.

Last updated: Mon 29th March, 2021 @ 09:43