Oxford City Council’s

Discretionary Housing Payment Policy

 

 

1.            Aims  

1.1.        The overarching objective of this policy is to distribute funding granted under the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme (DHP) in order to prevent homelessness. This will be achieved by providing short term relief to applicants in order to give them time to find more sustainable solutions to their financial arrangements. The policy is also intended to support people who have little scope to change their personal circumstances. Funding provided by this policy is only intended to be used to cover housing costs.

1.2.        Demand for support through awards of DHP remains high as a result of multiple welfare reforms implemented in recent years, such as the under occupancy criteria in the social sector, the Benefit Cap, and the freezing of Local Housing Allowance rates until the current financial year, plus the continued rise in private sector rents in the city. In addition to the overarching objective of the policy outlined in 1.1, the policy also aims to:

2.            Determination of Applications

2.1.        Applications for DHP awards must be made on the form shown at Appendix 1. The Welfare Reform Team will consider all applications for DHP on their individual merit.

2.2.        In order to be considered for an award of Discretionary Housing Payment applicants must either be entitled to Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit. The exception to this is for residents on Universal Credit moving into temporary accommodation, or specified accommodation, and as a result have a period of no entitlement to either benefits, when they can then be considered for DHP for the period of underlying entitlement.

2.3.        DHP’s can not be awarded in the following circumstances:

·         To top up an award made under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme[1]

·         To contribute to the cost of ineligible service charges

·         To assist in paying for rent increases imposed as a result of incurring rent arrears

·         To assist in paying for rent costs arising from the suspension of a Housing Benefit or Universal Credit claim

·         To assist in paying for rent costs which arise from the imposition of sanctions or reductions in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. These include any reduction made as a result of not complying with work related conditionality, or deductions to recover benefit overpayments, or in arranging maintenance as directed by the Child Support Agency, or breaching a community service order

·         To cover the rent for the initial period between making a claim for Universal Credit and having Universal Credit entitlement confirmed

2.4.        It is not intended to award DHP in the following circumstances, unless to do so would strongly support the policy objectives outlined above:

·         Assistance with moving costs, rent in advance, and deposits (unless moving to more affordable accommodation)

·         Shortfalls caused by a non-dependent deduction or housing cost contribution

·         Where Capital in excess of £6,000 is held for people of working age, or £10,000 for those of pensionable age

·         Where the tenancy was not affordable when it was taken on

·         Where the rent charged is of such an amount that the tenancy would still be unsustainable even if realistic steps to improve the household situation were achieved

·         Where an applicant has multiple outstanding debts, and has no plans to seek professional debt advice, or to deal with the debt

·         Where there is affordable and suitable available alternative accommodation

·         Where applicants are not prepared to take steps to reduce or remove their need for DHP, and/or state the period of time they require the DHP

·         Where multiple family units or households are living in one property, and another household could be expected to make additional contributions to the rent

·         Where overlapping tenancies exist and failing to pay the previous tenancy would not put the current tenancy at risk

·         Where fraud has been admitted or proven in relation to claims for Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, Council Tax Benefit, Council Tax Reduction Scheme or Discretionary Housing Payments

·         To cover the reduction to Universal Credit awards due to the imposition of third party debt deductions

 

2.5       In deciding whether to award a DHP, consideration will be given to:

·         how the award will meet the policy objectives, with priority being given to:

Ø  applicants who have limited scope to change their circumstances (e.g. a disabled applicant affected by the under-occupancy rules who has had adaptions made to their property)

·         the shortfall between Housing Benefit/ Housing Element of Universal Credit and the rental liability

·         any steps taken by the applicant to reduce their rental liability

·         any steps taken by the applicant to find work, or increase their hours of work

·         the financial and medical circumstances (including ill health and disabilities) of the applicant, their partner and any dependants and any other occupants of the applicant’s home

·         the income and expenditure of the applicant, their partner and any dependants or other occupants of the applicant’s home. (All applicants will be required to complete an Income & Expenditure Form.) Where it is felt that expenditure is inappropriate or incompatible with award of a DHP, the applicant will be referred for debt advice or financial capability support

·         any savings or capital that might be held by the applicant or their family

·         the level of indebtedness of the applicant and their family

·         the exceptional nature of the applicant and his / her family’s circumstances

·         whether total DHP expenditure is within the legally permitted level of two and a half times the government’s contribution

·         the possible impact on the Council of not making such an award, e.g. the pressure on priority homeless accommodation

·         any other special circumstances brought to the attention of the Welfare Reform Team

 

3 Amount and condition of awards

3.1 The Welfare Reform Team will decide how much to award based on all the circumstances. However, the main determining factor will be a consideration of the applicant’s scope for reducing their reliance on DHP’s in the future. Where this is possible, awards will usually be made for a maximum of thirteen weeks or three months. If an applicant has limited options for making changes in their circumstances awards will be made for longer periods, of up to 12 months. An award of a DHP does not guarantee a further award at a later date even if the applicant’s circumstances have not changed.

3.2  . The start date of the award will normally be:

·         the Monday after the Welfare Reform Team receives the written claim for a DHP in cases where the applicant is claiming Housing Benefit; or

·         The first day of the current Universal Credit monthly assessment period the applicant is in when their DHP claim is received, where the resident claims UC; or

3.3  An award of DHP will have conditionality attached to it in the majority of circumstances. Any conditionality will be linked to increasing the applicant’s income, reducing their rental liability or reducing other outgoings. Conditions will be agreed with the applicant, and support will be available to help them achieve them, either from the Council or from partner organisation(s).  Examples of types of conditionality could include:

The intention of any conditionality is to assist the resident in improving their circumstances; it is not a punitive measure. However an award of DHP can be cancelled if a resident has not undertaken the agreed activity. Where employment is a reasonable outcome for someone, a condition related to moving into work will always be applied.

3.4  The maximum amount of DHP is calculated under the following rules:

·         For applicants claiming Housing Benefit, the difference between the weekly Housing Benefit award and the weekly eligible rent

·         For applicants claiming Universal Credit, the maximum award amount is the level of the monthly Housing Element of the residents Universal Credit award, alongside the requirement that they need further support for housing costs

3.5  When making a repeat application for an award, the resident must have met the conditions applied to their previous award, be able to set out what actions they have undertaken as a result of that support, and explain their next steps in order to reduce their reliance on DHP awards. Such applications will require an interview with a Council officer before an award can be made.

3.6  When an application for a DHP is declined, the applicant will still be offered support in resolving their situation, either directly from the Welfare Reform Team, from another Council department, or through a referral to one of the Council’s partner organisations.

4    Administration of Payments

4.1 Where the applicant appears to be entitled to another state benefit that they are not receiving, they will be advised to make a claim, and provided with details of other agencies in the city who may be able to help with such a claim.  Any DHP will be reviewed in light of the result of this claim.

4.2  The Welfare Reform Team may need to revise an award of a DHP where the applicant’s circumstances have materially changed. Any revision to the award will take effect from the same day as any change to the Housing Benefit award, or the start of the relevant Universal Credit assessment period.  If a revision of an award leads to an overpayment then steps will be taken to recover this money if it is reasonable in the circumstances to do so.

4.3  A DHP will normally be made payable to the person receiving the Housing Benefit payment or Housing Element of Universal Credit, unless the aims of the policy are better served paying someone else. Where Housing Benefit or HCE is paid to the landlord, and a DHP award is made for more than three months, the Welfare Reform team will review the claim to ensure that payment should continue to be made to the landlord.

4.4  DHP will be paid by the most appropriate means available. This will normally be by BACS transfer. The payment frequency will normally be made in line with payments of Housing Benefit, or four weekly for Universal Credit payments.

4.5  Decisions regarding DHPs will be notified to the applicant within 10 working days of receiving the last piece of information required to determine the application, and will include:

·         Reasons for the decision 

·         The start and end date of the award

·         The amount of the award

·         Conditions attached to the award

·         The applicant’s right of review

·         Advice that future awards may not be made

4.6  A Senior Officer will review any DHP decision that is disputed by the applicant.  If the decision is still upheld, any further dispute must be dealt with through the Councils complaints procedures and ultimately by judicial review.

4.7  Where a resident has a complaint in the way we have applied our policy, they may ask the Local Government Ombudsman to look at their case, after exhausting the Council’s own complaints procedure.

5 Fraud

5.1 Oxford City Council is committed to the fight against fraud in all its forms.  An applicant who tries to fraudulently claim a DHP by falsely declaring their circumstances, or providing a false statement or evidence in support of their application, may have committed an offence under section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006. Where the Welfare Reform Team suspects such a fraud may have occurred, the matter will be investigated and this may lead to the instigation of criminal proceedings.

6 Monitoring

6.1 Reports will be extracted from the DHP software on a monthly basis to ensure that expenditure is within budget and is correctly profiled to ensure no overspend at the end of the financial year.  Overpayments will be reconciled on a monthly basis. A 10% check will be made of all DHP applications, whether successful or not, to ensure that decision making is consistent and complies with this policy.

6.2  The reasons for making a DHP award will be monitored and reported based on the following list:

Benefit Cap

LHA Reductions

Housing Benefit reductions due to under-occupation

Combination of reforms

Other

 

This will be reported back to DWP in accordance with their requirements.

7      Communication of Policy

7.1 The Welfare Reform Team will publicise the scheme and will work with all interested parties to achieve this. A copy of this policy statement will be made available for inspection and will be posted on Oxford City Council’s website.

8      Review

8.1 This policy is effective from 16 September 2020.  It will be reviewed no later than 18 September 2022.


Appendix 1:

DHP Application form

Application for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

 

 

Section 1: About you

 

 

To help us to process your claim quicker, please give us your current contact details.

 

Full Name: …………..……………………..……………….………………………………………………..….……

Address: ……...................................................................................................................................................

…………………………………...……….……..…………………………………………..……………………......

…………………………………….…………….……….…………………………………..……............................

……………………………….…….……………………....……Post Code: ………….……….…………..……..

Claim reference number: 80- ………..……..…..………………………………………………………………….

Home number: ……………………………………..………… Mobile: ……….………………………………….

Email address: …………………………………………..………………………………………………………….

 

 

 

 

 

 


Section 2: About your circumstances

 

 

1. Why are you applying for DHP e.g. bedroom tax, local housing allowance (LHA) shortfall, benefit cap, personal circumstances?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Have you applied for DHP before?

       Yes- please answer question 2A                      No- Please answer question 2B

2A. Please tell us what are you doing to meet the conditions of your last award?

2B. Please tell us what have you tried to do to improve your current situation?

 

 

 

 

 

3. Are you getting help from anyone at the moment e.g. Tenancy Sustainment, Connection, Crisis, Aspire, Mind, Advice Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Job Clubs, Social Services, etc.?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Is there anything else you would like us to know about when we are considering your claim e.g. risk of eviction, health, pregnancy, addiction issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. When would you like your DHP to start and why? If you want DHP for past period, tell us why did you not apply before?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 3: About your new DHP award

 

 

6. DHPs provide short term financial help for people who are working towards improving their situation so they can afford to pay their rent without this support in the future. Which of the following options are you taking or are you prepared to take to improve your situation?

      Employment/training towards work                                      Downsizing (moving to a smaller home)

      Increasing working hours                                                      Debt/money advice

      Moving to cheaper accommodation                                      Lodger

      Other (please specify below):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 4: About your financial situation

 

 

Please give us details of your Income and Expenditure as accurately and completely as you can. This information is needed to make a decision about your Discretionary Housing Payment. You may be asked to provide proof of the amounts declared.

 

Please state period as Y = yearly or Q = quarterly or M = monthly or W = weekly

 

Income

 

Income Type

Period

Amount

Income Type

Period

Amount

Wages

 

 

Industrial Injuries Benefit

 

 

Wages (partner)

 

 

Pension Credit

 

 

Jobseeker’s Allowance

 

 

State Retirement Pension

 

 

Income Support

 

 

Occupational Pension

 

 

ESA

 

 

Sick Pay

 

 

Child Tax Credit

 

 

Maternity Pay

 

 

Child Benefit

 

 

Carer’s Allowance

 

 

Disability Living Allowance

 

 

Attendance Allowance

 

 

Personal Independence

 

 

Student Income/ Loans

 

 

Payment (PIP)

 

 

Savings/ Investments

 

 

Maintenance

 

 

Armed Forces

 

 

Working Tax Credit

 

 

Independence Payment

 

 

Money from

 

 

Universal Credit

 

 

Non-Dependant

 

 

Other

 

 

Rent from lodger

 

 

(please specify)

 

 

 

Bills

 

Expenses

Period

Amount

Expense

Period

Amount

Total Rent*

 

 

Pay TV/ Internet/ Phone

 

 

Council Tax (after CTRS*)

 

 

Package

 

 

Water Rates

 

 

Maintenance Payments

 

 

Gas

 

 

Service Charges

 

 

Electricity

 

 

Private Pension payments

 

 

Coal/Wood/Other Heating

 

 

Insurance e.g. contents,

 

 

TV Licence

 

 

life, pets

 

 

Mobile Phone 1

 

 

Other (please specify e.g.

 

 

Mobile Phone 2

 

 

repairs)

 

 

 

Housekeeping

 

Expenses

Period

Amount

Expense

Period

Amount

Food

 

 

Childcare

 

 

Takeaway

 

 

Healthcare Prescriptions

 

 

Baby Food/ Milk

 

 

Health & Beauty (please

 

 

Toiletries

 

 

specify e.g. haircuts)

 

 

Nappies

 

 

Clothing

 

 

Laundry/ Dry Cleaning

 

 

Disability Related Care

 

 

Cleaning Materials

 

 

Expenditure

 

 

School Uniform

 

 

Gym Membership

 

 

School Meals

 

 

Other

 

 

School Trips

 

 

(please specify)

 

 

 

Travel

 

Expenses

Period

Amount

Expense

Period

Amount

Public Transport

 

 

Disability Related Mobility

 

 

Petrol

 

 

Expenditure

 

 

Insurance

 

 

Breakdown Cover/ MOT

 

 

Road Tax

 

 

Other

 

 

Taxi

 

 

(please specify)

 

 

*Total Rent- tell us what your actual rent is                *CTRS- Council Tax Reductions Scheme

Please state period as Y = yearly or Q = quarterly or M = monthly or W = weekly

 

Other costs

 

Expenses

Period

Amount

Expense

Period

Amount

Going Out/

 

 

Cigarettes

 

 

Entertainment

 

 

Alcohol

 

 

Savings

 

 

Gambling

 

 

Pets e.g. food, vets

 

 

Holidays

 

 

Pocket money

 

 

Meals at work

 

 

Afterschool Clubs

 

 

Newspapers/ Magazines

 

 

Birthdays

 

 

Subscriptions/ Charities

 

 

Religious Holidays

 

 

Other

 

 

e.g. Christmas, Eid

 

 

(please specify)

 

 

 

Debt

 

Expenses

Period

Amount

Total amount of debt

Personal Loans e.g. family, friends

 

 

 

Pay Day Loans

 

 

 

Credit Cards

 

 

 

Rent Arrears

 

 

 

Utility Arrears e.g. gas, water, electrics

 

 

 

Council Tax Arrears

 

 

 

HB overpayments/ deductions

 

 

 

Hire Purchase/ White Goods Loans

 

 

 

Court Fines/ Bank Costs

 

 

 

Maintenance Payments

 

 

 

Catalogue Payments

 

 

 

Student Loans

 

 

 

Other (please specify)

 

 

 

 

 

Section 5: Your declaration

 

 

I declare that the information I have given on this form is correct and complete.

 

I understand the following:

 

 

 

 

 
 

Your signature:                                                                          Date:

 

 

 

If you had help filling in this form or someone filled it in for you, please ask them to complete the next section.

I can confirm that I have completed this form on behalf of the claimant. The information contained within the form has been given to me by the claimant. The claimant confirms that this information is correct.

Name and relationship to you of the person who filled in the form:

 

 

 
 

 



[1] Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 provides for Local Authorities to make reductions in the amount of Council Tax owed by an individual.