Monitoring the use of discretionary housing payments in Scotland
By: Shelter Scotland Published: March 2014
This briefing analyses local authorities' discretionary housing payment (DHP) spend up to 31 December 2013, and considers each local authority's DHP policy.
Increasing the discretionary housing payment (DHP) budget is a response by the UK government to mitigate the impact of welfare reform, helping individuals adjust to housing benefit cuts in both the social and private sectors by providing short-term help with housing costs. DHPs are not intended to cover rent shortfalls incurred through welfare cuts in their entirety; under occupancy deductions are estimated to add up to around £50m per year, while the 2013-14 DHP allocation for Scotland from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is just over £16m.
Local authorities can ‘top up’ their DHP funds by 2.5 times the amount allocated by the DWP, and Shelter Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s decision to enable local authorities to top up their DHP funds to this maximum by making 20m of funding available in October 2013.
As of 31 December 2013 local authorities have £15,116,499 to spend by 31 March 2014. The level of spending in each local authority across Scotland has been varied. By the end of December 2013 10 local authorities had spent equal to or above 66% of their overall DHP budget for the year, while eight local authorities had spent less than 30% of the funding available.
Four local authorities had spent less than 25% of their DHP budget. These authorities may be in danger of failing to spend even their initial DHP allocation from the DWP. As this money cannot be carried over into 2014-15 some authorities run the risk of failing to help vulnerable individuals affected by welfare cuts.
Only 14 local authorities have a DHP policy published on their website. While some authorities substitute this with detailed information on eligibility and potential length of award on their website, those who do not should take action.