Discretionary housing payments

If you qualify for housing benefit but are facing hardship because you cannot afford your housing costs, you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment from your local council.
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What is a discretionary housing payment?

Each local council is given a pot of money each year to help people who qualify for housing benefit (or similar help under universal credit) but are having trouble:

bulletpaying their rent, or
bulletfinding enough money to pay for the start-up costs of a tenancy.

When the money for the year runs out, no more payments can be made. The government has increased the amount of money available to help some people to adjust to cuts to housing benefits in recent years.

The council decides who should be given a discretionary housing payment (DHP), how much and how often the payment is made. It may be paid weekly or can be a lump sum. Payments can also be backdated.

A DHP can be paid to you if:

bullet  you already get housing benefit,
bullet  there is a shortfall between the housing benefit you receive and the rent you have to pay yourself, and
bullet  you are having difficulty paying the shortfall.

This can include where your housing benefit has been reduced due to recent changes in the benefit laws, such as the ‘bedroom tax’, the ‘benefit cap’ or changes to the rules in local housing allowance. It may also be paid if your housing benefit has reduced because of  a non-dependent deduction being applied (eg: for grown up children living with you).

In certain situations, a DHP can also be paid to cover a rent deposit or rent in advance for a property that you are yet to move into. Your local council may make a payment to help you avoid becoming homeless. In some situations, payments can also be made to help with rent arrears.

A DHP is usually paid for a fixed period of time – if this is the case, the council should make it clear to you when the payment will end. If your circumstances change whilst you are receiving a DHP then you should tell the council about those changes so that they can review the payment.
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Who can get a discretionary housing payment?

There are no rules, other than the ones above, about who can get DHPs. Each council is given a pot of money and they are allowed to decide who should be given the payments.

The council will usually take into account any special circumstances that contribute to your financial difficulties, for example;

If:

bullet  you have to pay child maintenance,
bullet  you have to pay legal costs,
bullet  you have extra heating costs because you spend a lot of time at home because you are sick or disabled,
bullet  you have additional travel costs because you travel to a doctor or hospital or you care for a relative or friend,
bullet  your work-related travel costs have increased because you had to move as a result of cuts to local housing allowance or the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, or
bullet  you are likely to become homeless if a payment is not made.
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How can I claim?

Every council deals with their claims for DHPs differently but, wherever you apply, you will probably have to fill in a claim form. You will be able to get this by phoning or going into your local council office. Be sure to ask for a discretionary housing payment form, as it is different to the form that you will have filled in when you first claimed housing benefit.
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What information should I send with the claim?

You will be asked to give evidence of your expenditure, ie. the money you have going out. This could be a copy of a bill or your bank statements. You should also provide any information about your circumstances that make things difficult for you financially.
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If I don’t get it, can I appeal?

The council should issue their decision on your claim in writing. The letter should set out their reasons for their decision. 

If you disagree with the decision you should ask the council to look at it again. If the council refuse to look at it again or do not change their mind there is no legal right of appeal, although the council could be challenged by judicial review if they have acted unreasonably in dealing with your claim. If you think this applies then seek advice straight away. In cases where there has been some maladministration you may be able to complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

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Page last updated: January 16, 2014