Arun District Council Discretionary Housing Payment Policy
Updated February 2023
This document sets out the Policy of Arun District Council regarding the award of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP’s). The budget allocated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for 2023-2024 is £225’903.00.
It is the Government’s intention that residents take positive steps to improve their financial situation through finding work, increasing the hours that they work and/or moving to more suitable and cheaper accommodation where possible. Therefore, DHP payments should be a short-term solution to alleviate financial hardship while residents seek to improve their overall financial situation. Information can be made available to residents who wish to receive help and support.
2. Statement of objectives
This Policy is underpinned by the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001 (DFA Regulations). These Regulations are supported and guided by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Each case will be treated strictly on its own merits and all customers will be treated equally and fairly.
The Benefits Team is committed to working with local stakeholders and teams within the Housing and Communities Directorate to ensure that those across the district who are eligible receive all the financial support and assistance that they are entitled to. If further support is needed the customer will be signposted, including referrals for housing advice where appropriate.
The Benefits Team will consider making a DHP to customers who demonstrate a need for further financial assistance with their housing costs. In consideration with other Council Policies and Strategies this Policy aims to:
- alleviate poverty
- prevent homelessness and thereby reduce the need and use of temporary accommodation for homeless households
- encourage and sustain employment
- safeguard residents in their homes
- help those that are trying to help themselves
- keep families together
- support the vulnerable in the community
- help customers through personal difficulties and events
- assist those in sustainable adapted accommodation; and
- support those providing foster care
- supporting residents moving to more sustainable accommodation
3. Basic eligibility criteria
DHP can only be awarded to customers who are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit (which includes a housing element for rental costs).
DHP’s can cover, but are not limited to:
- reductions in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit where the Benefit Cap has been applied
- reductions in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit due to the Maximum Rent (social sector) Size Criteria
- reductions in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit because of Local Housing Allowance restrictions
- Rent Officer restrictions, such as Local Reference Rent or shared accommodation rate
- non-dependant deductions in Housing Benefit or housing cost contributions in Universal Credit where there is good reason for the non-dependant being unable to contribute themselves
- rent shortfalls to prevent a household becoming homeless whist alternative accommodation is being sought
- one off housing costs such as rent in advance and deposits, generally where other funding such as the councils tenancy deposit scheme cannot be secured. A limit is set of up to 2 weeks rent for RSL & Council tenancies and any remaining balance is down to the RSL/LA to set up a weekly payment plan with the tenant to pay. Up to 2 months’ rent in advance for private rentals.
- removal costs up to the value of £750 for an in District move; moves out of district will be considered on merit and distance of move.
4. Examples where Discretionary Housing Payments cannot be considered
- where a person does not qualify for any Housing Benefit or the Housing Costs Element of Universal Credit
- ineligible service or support charges
- rent arrears
- rent in advance where a previous rent deposit is due to be returned
- rent in advance requiring over 2 months’ worth of rent
- rent in advance for young adults wishing to move out of the parental home
- storage expenses
- increases in rent due to outstanding rent arrears
- sanctions and reductions in benefits
- shortfalls caused by Housing Benefit overpayment recovery
- shortfalls caused by overpayment recovery from a Universal Credit award
- for the period known as Waiting Days for a Universal Credit award
Discretionary Housing Payments cannot be used to cover a Council Tax liability; however, Arun District Council have a separate Discretionary Council Tax Support scheme for this purpose.
5. Rent in advance, deposits, and removal costs
Priority will be given to applicants who are moving to more affordable accommodation where no other funding is available.
Where the applicant’s current accommodation is unaffordable, a decision will be made if it would be more cost effective to provide financial assistance to help them move to more affordable accommodation, instead of providing short term financial assistance to cover any shortfall in rent.
When looking at applications for rent in advance, deposits, or removal costs the affordability of the new accommodation will be considered, and any deposit or rent in advance owed to the applicant from a previous property will be considered.
Rent-in-advance and deposits will normally be paid direct to the landlord.
6. Assessment of applications
When deciding on whether to award a DHP, we will consider the following objectives:
- the reasons why the applicant’s circumstances should be considered as being exceptional
- the size of the shortfall between the rent and Housing Benefit or housing element of Universal Credit, and the reasons for it
- the length of DHP award being applied for
- the financial impact of any special needs, health, or social problems the applicant or their family have
- what impact not awarding a DHP is likely to have on the Council’s finances and services (especially homelessness)
- the amount of money remaining in the DHP budget
- the extent to which the applicant has complied with previous conditions
- the impact of any actions that the applicant has taken to contribute towards the difficulties they are facing
- applications current spending as determined by viewing bank statements
When calculating income Disability Living Allowance (both care and mobility components), Attendance Allowance, Personal Independent Payments (daily living and mobility) will be considered but will be offset against and expenses incurred due to disability. We believe this is the fairest method as often disability associated expenses exceed the benefits awarded for them.
In the majority of applications, we shall use standard expenses allowed by debt advice agencies; unless there are expenses unique to an individual applicant.
DHP’s must not undermine the purpose and nature of the HB or UC scheme, nor should they support irresponsible behaviour. Low priority will be given to assisting people who take on housing costs which because of the nature, location or price of the property are unaffordable and unsustainable from the start. However, we will consider the overall cost to the Council against the needs of the applicant.
An initial award for up to the full rental shortfall may be awarded for up to three months; followed by a further three months at 50% of the shortfall. This is to enforce the ethos that claimants must seek alternative solutions to their financial situation.
If there is a reapplication, and a further award agreed, it will be three months at a further 50% reduction on the last award.
Awards can be made to meet a one-off housing cost, such as a deposit or rent in advance. This will generally be if the customer cannot be assisted through the Councils Tenancy Deposit Scheme, or they are not due to have a deposit or rent in advance returned to them from a previous tenancy.
DHP for a rent deposit will only be made if the landlord places the deposit in a government approved tenancy protection scheme. Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection
Where possible applications should be made in advance to allow the Council time to negotiate with the Registered Provider if appropriate and in exceptional circumstances the Council may make an additional award if securing the accommodation is in the best interests of the applicant and the only option available to secure the accommodation.
One-off payments will be made direct to the landlord or removal company, however in exceptional circumstances a payment direct to the customer may be considered.
8. Who can claim Discretionary Housing Payments?
In most cases the person claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will make the application for DHP. However, we will also accept claims from someone acting on behalf of the person concerned, such as an appointee or advocate if the applicant is vulnerable and requires support or they have requested someone to act on their behalf.
9. How to claim Discretionary Housing Payments
DHPs can be claimed by:
- completing an online application form from www.arun.gov.uk/discretionary-housing-payments; or
- contacting our Contact Centre on 01903 737753
10. Who we can pay the Discretionary Housing Payments to
The DHP will be added to the HB payment and paid in the same cycle as the award of HB, in most circumstances this is four weeks in arrears.
For UC customers payments will be made monthly in arrears by BACS transfer.
DHPs will generally be paid directly to the person claiming the Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, or the landlord or company their Housing Benefit is paid to.
DHP for council tenants will be credited directly to their rent account.
Where the claimant receives the housing element of Universal Credit, payment will be made to the same bank account as the UC payment (this could be direct to the landlord).
11. When does the application have to be made?
DHP applications should be made as soon as the need arises as backdated payments will only be awarded in exceptional circumstances.
12. Discretionary Housing Payment disputes
Where the applicant disagrees with a decision they need to contact the Benefits Team within one-month of the date of notification. They must state why they disagree with the decision made and, if necessary, provide reasonable evidence.
A different Officer will review the decision and consider any new evidence or information.
The Officer may request additional information or evidence before deciding.
Where additional information or evidence is not provided the Officer will review the decision within 21 days using available information.
Once the decision has been reviewed a letter will be sent advising whether the original decision has been revised, or the grounds on why the review was unsuccessful.
Where the applicant is unhappy with the stage 1 review, their only option is to follow the Council’s corporate complaints procedure.
There is no right of appeal to a Social Security Tribunal against the Council’s decision to disallow an application for DHP. The route of judicial review is available, and the local government ombudsman if a person considers there to be maladministration.
13. Change of Circumstances
For the purposes of a DHP award, a person will still be under a duty to notify the Benefits Team of any changes in their circumstances, in line with the same reporting requirements they have with their Housing Benefit claim or Universal Credit claim.
The Council may revise a DHP award if the applicant’s circumstances have changed.
14. When we will stop paying Discretionary Housing Payments
We will stop paying DHP when:
- the claimant moves. It is generally considered they should no longer have a shortfall if moving
- it is deemed that a person no longer requires DHP following an in-year change in their circumstances; or
- DHP is paid due to an official error; or
- the Council decides that a person has misrepresented their circumstances or failed to disclose a relevant material fact, in relation to their application for
- entitlement to Housing Benefit ends or housing costs element within Universal Credit
15. Overpaid Discretionary Housing Payments
The Council will decide if it is appropriate to recover an overpayment of DHP and will make every effort to minimise overpayments of DHP.
Overpaid DHP will be recovered where it is held that the applicant, or a person acting on their behalf, has misrepresented their circumstances or where they have failed to disclose a relevant material fact.
We may also seek to recover overpaid DHP if we establish that payments have been made because of an error made when the claim was first determined.
Where it is decided to recover an overpaid DHP the Council will issue an invoice to the person that received the DHP. The Council will consider reasonable repayment plans where appropriate.
A written explanation of how the overpayment occurred, and the periods and amounts to which it relates will be sent accordingly. DHP overpayments will not be recovered from payments of Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit but may be recovered from any future DHP awards.
Where the applicant disagrees with a decision to recover an overpayment, they will need to follow the DHP dispute progress above.
17. Policy review
This policy may be reviewed annually, or in response to any legislative changes, welfare reform or other factors that impact on its effectiveness.
All expenses, including removal costs; may be increased annually in line with Septembers CPI.