Do you know about discretionary housing payments (DHPs)?
Tuesday 2nd February 2016
Last week the Rutherford family won their Court of Appeal bedroom tax challenge. The court agreed that the bedroom tax discriminates against disabled children who need overnight care.
The government argues that the availability of discretionary housing payments (DHPs) ensures the most vulnerable are protected from a shortfall in rent as a result of the bedroom tax (known formally as housing benefit size criteria rules).
However many of the parents we speak to on our helpline appear unaware that DHPs exist. Indeed, our Counting the Costs campaign found that of those experiencing a shortfall in rent, 44 per cent had not heard of DHPs.
What are DHPs?
DHPs can be used by councils to help families who qualify for housing benefit and who are in need of extra financial help for any reason, for example, because of cuts to housing benefit as a result of the benefit cap, the bedroom tax and similar housing benefit restrictions in private tenancies.
How you make a claim for DHP depends on your local council.
Will I definitely get one?
These payments are at the discretion of the local authority, so you have no legal right to them. They tend to be made for a temporary period, and you may need to reapply for help periodically.
Can Disability Living Allowance (DLA) be used as income in
deciding if I'll get a DHP?
Yes, when deciding whether to give you a DHP, many councils take DLA into account as a form of income that is available to pay rent.
However, in March 2015 the High Court found that Sandwell Council had acted unlawfully in taking a couple's DLA into account in this way, and this judgement calls into question whether other councils with a similar policy are acting lawfully.
If, because your child gets DLA, you were either refused a discretionary housing payment or got reduced payments, seek local advice about asking your council to reconsider its decision on the basis that it breaches section 29(6) of the Equality Act and article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We want the government guidance to be amended to make sure local authorities do not take DLA into account when making an assessment for DHPs. We have written to the government about this.
What to do if you are refused a DHP?
You have no right to appeal a DHP refusal, but you can ask your local authority to review its decision. You should seek legal advice if your housing benefit was cut because you have spare room for an overnight carer for your child and you were refused a DHP.
How can I find out more?
You can call our freephone helpline for more advice on bedroom tax and other benefits.
Visit our benefits and tax credit pages for more about your entitlement to financial support.