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Local authorities underspending discretionary housing payment budgets

Friday 7th July 2017

The Department of Work and Pensions has released statistics showing that 73 per cent of local authorities in England and Wales did not spend all the funding they got from central government for discretionary housing payments (DHP).  

In 2016/17 central government provided £150 million to councils to spend on DHPs. However, statistics show that 241 local authorities in England and Wales underspent by an estimated £7.2 million.

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 resulting from 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 a DHP if I apply for 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. However, as a parent of a disabled child who applies for a DGP, you may be given a higher priority for a DHP than other families.

Can Disability Living Allowance (DLA) be used as income in deciding if I'll get a DHP?

In March 2015 the High Court found that Sandwell Council had acted unlawfully in taking a couple's DLA into account when refusing them a DHP. This judgement calls into question whether other councils with a similar policy are acting lawfully.

If, as a result of your child's DLA, you are refused a discretionary housing payment or get reduced payments, seek local advice. You may be able to challenge any such policy on the basis that it breaches section 29(6) of the Equality Act and article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

What do I do if am 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.