Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) were introduced in July 2001. The general provisions for DHPs are contained in Reg. 2 to the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001. These state –
(Subject to various criteria) ... a relevant authority may make payments by way of financial assistance, ("discretionary Housing Payments") to persons who –
(a) are entitled to housing benefit or council tax benefit or both; and
(b) appear to such authority to require some further assistance (in addition to the benefit or benefits to which they are entitled) in order to meet housing costs.
It must be noted that although funded by central government the DHP's are not Benefit payments and are cash limited.
The local authority (LA) must be satisfied that the customer is in need of further financial assistance with their housing costs. The main features of the scheme are that:
To ensure that DHPs contribute to the Council's aims and objectives of 'wealthier' and 'fairer' and to promote social and financial inclusion for its residents while not subsidising poor or inappropriate accommodation.
The Benefits Service will consider making a payment of a DHP to claimants who meet the qualifying criteria as specified in this policy. Each application for a DHP will be treated strictly on its merits and all customers will be treated equally and fairly when the scheme is administered. The following objectives are linked to the council's corporate aims and objectives and seek through the operation of this policy to:
A claim for a DHP must be made in writing and signed. We will make an application form available as required.
A supervisor working within the Benefits Service will review the application and recommend whether a DHP award is to be made and the duration of the award. It will then be authorised by a manager.
Decisions will be made within 7 days of all the information required being received, or as soon as possible thereafter.
All claims for DHP will be treated equally and fairly in accordance with the council's policy on race, diversity and equality. The council will endeavour to ensure that no-one who applies for a DHP will be treated less favourably than any other person on irrelevant grounds such as age, disability, gender, religious beliefs, marital status, nationality, race or sexual orientation.
What a DHP award cannot be used for
A DHP award cannot be used to cover any of the following
Period of award
The Benefits Service will make a decision on the length of time of the DHP award based on the known facts and the evidence supplied.
The start date of an award will usually be decided as circumstances warrant.
The minimum award period is 1 day. An initial award will be made for a maximum period of 26 weeks. A new DHP request can be submitted following an award expiring. The duration of the award can be extended in exceptional circumstances.
In deciding whether to award a DHP, officers will take into account any of the following factors, which may be relevant:
The Benefits Service will decide how much to award based on all of the circumstances. This may be an amount below the difference between the liability and the payment of Housing Benefit and / or Council Tax Benefit. An award of a DHP does not guarantee that a further award will be made at a later date even if the claimant's circumstances have not changed
Change of Circumstances
Customers awarded a DHP must notify the Benefits Service of any changes to their or any member of their family or household's personal or financial circumstances. The DHP may be revised up or down as appropriate.
The Benefits Service will notify the customer of the outcome of their DHP application. Where the application is unsuccessful, the Benefits Service will set out the reasons why this decision was made and explain the right of review. If the application is successful the customer will be advised of:
The Right of Review
There is no statutory right of appeal against a DHP decision because DHPs are not payments of benefit. A claimant (or their appointee or agent) who disagrees with a DHP decision may dispute the decision. They can request a review of that decision. A request for a review should be delivered in writing to the Benefits Service within one calendar month of the written decision about the DHP being issued to the claimant.
An officer who was not part of the original decision making team will consider the request for a review. The reviewing officer will notify the customer of their decision, which will be final and there will be no further right of review. Dissatisfied customers have the option of requesting a judicial review.
The Benefits Service may seek recovery of any DHP overpaid. If recovery is sought an invoice will be issued to the customer or the person to whom the DHP payment was made. Recovery can be made from an award of ongoing benefit entitlement but only on the direct request of the customer. Council Tax Benefit DHP overpayments are always recovered by means of amending the Council Tax Benefit award.
All payments of DHP are recorded as part of the relevant claim on the council's computer system.
Total DHP expenditure will be monitored on an ongoing monthly basis and is reported as part of the Revenues Monthly report. The total awarded will be monitored to check that the expenditure will not exceed the budget prescribed by the DWP.
The Benefits Service is committed to fighting fraud. Suspected fraudulent DHP applications will be investigated. Submitting a fraudulent claim for DHP is a criminal offence and offenders may be prosecuted.
The availability of the DHP scheme is publicised on the council's Internet, in leaflets and in letters advising customers about their Housing and or Council Tax Benefit awards.
The Benefits Service is committed to working with other departments within the council and the wider community such as the voluntary sector and social landlords to provide an inclusive approach to addressing financial difficulties.