Discretionary housing payments

Claimants who require more help with housing costs may be entitled to receive a discretionary housing payment (DHP).

This content applies to Scotland

Overview

A local authority has the power to pay discretionary housing payments if:[1]

  • it believes than a housing benefit or a universal credit claimant eligible for housing costs towards rent, requires further help with housing costs, and

  • it is within the authority's cash limit, and

  • it is being paid in respect of a period where the claimant is or was entitled to housing benefit or universal credit housing costs in relation to rent.

  • the discretionary housing payment and the total award of housing benefit/housing costs will not be above 100 per cent of the eligible rent.

Payments can be made to cover financial need that has arisen because of benefit sanctions but only where:[2]

  • the requirement for it also arises from some exceptional event or exceptional circumstances, and

  • the requirement for it is immediate.

It can be awarded for a rent deposit or rent in advance for a property that the claimant has not yet moved into but only if s/he is already entitled to housing benefit or universal credit in their present home.[3]

It can be awarded to cover rent arrears, providing that the claimant has not already received housing benefit payments for those arrears.[4]

Exclusions

Discretionary housing payments cannot be made to cover:

  • a financial need that has arisen due to a reduction in benefit to recover an overpayment.

  • ineligible service charges (ie service charges that are ineligible for housing benefit)

  • council tax payments

How to apply.

Claims are made to the local authority.  There is no set claim form for DHP and it is up to each local authority to decide how claims are made. Most local authorities will have a claim form which can be requested or downloaded from their website. When making a claim, clear reasons should be given as to why DHP is required.  It may be useful to point out the potential consequences of a claim being refused, for example, if the claimant will be at risk of homelessness.  Any additional financial pressures on the household should be noted and evidenced if possible.

Income and expenditure

A local authority can decide how to treat a claimant's income and expenditure. When deciding how to treat income from disability-related benefits the local authority must have regard to the purpose of those benefits and whether the money from those benefits has been committed to other liabilities associated with disability. The authority may also take 'unavoidable costs' into account, such as fares to work which may have increased if a person had to move because of changes to their welfare benefit entitlement.[5]

Where a claimant has received an emergency payment from funds set up to help people in the aftermath of certain incidents, DWP guidance encourages local authorities not to exclude applications for a DHP.[6]

Reconsideration

If a claimant is unhappy about the decision made on their DHP claim they can ask the council for a review of the decision. If the review fails then potentially Judicial Review proceedings could be raised.  If the decision involves maladministration then an official complaint could be made and if the complaints procedure does not resolve the issue then the matter could be passed to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Recovery

A local authority can recover or cancel payments made in error or where an award was made as a result of a client misrepresenting or failing to disclose a relevant fact. A person in receipt of DHP must notify the local authority of any changes in circumstances which might affect their claim, for example change to housing costs or income.

Last updated: 11 August 2017

Footnotes

  • [1]

    The Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001 SI 2001/1167 as amended

  • [2]

    s.25 Scotland Act 2016 (this amended Ex.6 para.F1 Sch.5 Scotland Act 1998 which in turn amended reg.3 Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001/1167)

  • [3]

    page 8 Discretionary Housing Payments Guidance Manual, DWP, December 2016.

  • [4]

    R (on the application of Gargett) v Lambeth LBC [2008] EWCA Civ 1450

  • [5]

    page 14 Discretionary Housing Payments Guidance Manual, DWP, December 2016; R (on the application of Hardy) v Sandwell MBC & Zaccheus 2000 Trust (Intervener) [2015] EWHC 890 (Admin).

  • [6]

    HB Circular A8/2017 issued in relation to payments from the 'We love Manchester Emergency Fund' and the 'London Emergencies Trust'.