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Discretionary Housing Payments

Additional benefit awarded in some circumstances

DISCRETIONARY HOUSING PAYMENTS

A Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) is made under a scheme that is not part of the rules for Housing Benefit and enables Councils to 'top up' Housing Benefit in certain circumstances.

The total amount of the fund available for making DHP's in a year is cash-limited and is a very small amount in relation to the overall amount of Benefit we pay.    Due to recent welfare changes this is resulting in an ever increasing demand for DHP's.  Therefore, in making decisions on DHP's, the Benefit Office has to be mindful of the limited nature of that fixed 'pot' throughout the year.

More about how DHP's work........

What is a Discretionary Housing Payment ?

We usually award a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) where there is a shortfall between the rent a landlord is charging and the amount of Housing Benefit awarded.

The main features of a DHP are that:

  • it's discretionary - there's no right to a payment and each application is considered on it's own merits
  • there must be an entitlement to Housing Benefit,
  • it is not housing benefit,
  • it is usually only awarded for a short period of time
  • a DHP cannot be awarded to pay for ineligible service charges, and
  • the total amount of DHP's that can be awarded in any financial year is limited

The aim of a DHP is to:

  • reduce poverty
  • support vulnerable people
  • help a claimant through personal crisis
  • safeguard a tenant's home.
  • support claimants affected by welfare reforms whilst they seek alternative accommodation

The DHP scheme should be seen as a short term emergency fund to help claimants suffering exceptional financial hardship as a result of the shortfall in Housing Benefit.

Applying for a DHP

To apply for a DHP, please click Discretionary Housing Payments form.  You will need to give details about all of your income and expenditure.

We may ask for further information or evidence to help us make a decision. You will need to provide the evidence within one month of the date of request, although this may be extended in appropriate circumstances. If you do not provide the requested evidence we will make a decision on the information available. It may be necessary for us to make a home visit.  If so we will contact you for an appointment.

Awarding a DHP

In making a decision we will consider:

  • the amount of the shortfall between the Housing Benefit and the amount of rent,
  • how long the shortfall is likely to last,
  • the financial circumstances of the household, including all income, the types and amounts of expenditure, the amount of savings and debts,
  • whether the circumstances are likely to change
  • any medical issues in the household,
  • the impact on the applicant and the council if we refuse the application
  • whether the DHP applicant contributed to the shortfall,
  • if an applicant is taking steps to find and secure smaller or more affordable accommodation,
  • the amount of DHP funding available,
  • any other special circumstances.

Period of award

In all cases, we will decide the length of time of any awards made. The start date of the award will normally be:

  • the Monday following receipt of the DHP application form, or
  • an earlier date if we consider it reasonable

We will:

  • normally award a DHP for a three month period,
  • not normally award a DHP for more than a year,

Paying a DHP

DHP will normally be paid to whoever is receiving the Housing Benefit.

Notifying an award of DHP

On receipt of an application for a DHP, we will aim to make a decision on it within one month. Where the application is successful we will write to the claimant and advise:

  • the amount,
  • the start and end date of the award and the need to re-apply on expiry if appropriate,
  • to whom the award will be paid to,
  • the requirement to report any changes in circumstances.

Where the application is not successful, we will write to the applicant and explain the reasons for the decision and the right to ask us to look at it again. However, there is no formal right of appeal.

Disagreeing with a decision?

We operate the following approach following a refusal to award a DHP:

  • An applicant (or appointee) who disagrees with a DHP decision can ask for an explanation of the decision. We ask for this to be done in writing or by phone within one month of the date of the decision. We will explain our decision either by letter, phone or interview.
  • Where the applicant still disagrees with the decision, on a written request a senior officer within Tax and Benefits will look at it again. We will look at that decision on the basis of the evidence available and notify our decision in writing.
  • If there is still disagreement the claimant must give reasons in writing within one month. A different officer will look at the case again and then alter or confirm the original decision. That will then be final.

Changes in circumstances

On awarding a DHP any changes in circumstances must be notified to us straight away. We may revise the award of DHP or decide to end the award. We will notify the claimant, in writing, of the decision.

Overpayments

We will normally seek to recover all overpayments of DHP. However, we have the discretion not to recover an overpayment of DHP. Recovery is normally done by sending an invoice.

Fraud

New Forest District Council is committed to combating fraud. Anyone who tries fraudulently to claim a DHP by falsely declaring their circumstances, or providing false information, may have committed an offence and this may lead to criminal proceedings.


Other useful links

Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction and Welfare Advice

Updated: 11 Jul 2016
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