Issue - meetings

Review of Discretionary Housing Payment policy

Meeting: 22/05/2018 - City Executive Board (became Cabinet on 13 May 2019) (Item 14)

14 Review of Discretionary Housing Payment policy pdf icon PDF 113 KB

The Head of Financial Services has submitted a report to seek the City Executive Board’s approval to amend the current Discretionary Housing Payment policy and to note the trends in expenditure detailed in the report.

 

Recommendations:That the City Executive Board resolves to:

 

Seek approval to amend the current Discretionary Housing Payment policy and to note the trends in expenditure detailed in the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cllr Upton returned to the room.

 

The Head of Financial Services had submitted a report to seek the City Executive Board’s approval to amend the current Discretionary Housing Payment policy and to note the trends in expenditure detailed in the report.

 

The Chair introduced the report, reminding those present this was the annual review of the Council’s approach to the use of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP). 

 

The Revenues and Benefits Programme Manager noted that this was the first time since 2013 (when the current policy had been introduced) that there had been little need to make significant changes to the policy.

 

With regard to the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation, the Chair understood why it sought to top up the DHP fund. This aspiration did not, however, take account of the fact that it was hard to predict where the need for support would occur next and DHPs were, by their nature, very narrowly targeted. The hardship fund could, on the other hand, be deployed more flexibly and, critically, before families and individuals could even be considered for a DHP.   If an increase in funding was needed to support vulnerable families, then it would be preferable for the hardship fund to be topped up rather than the DHP fund.  It was noted that changes in DHP grant funding from year to year had reflected changes to the benefits regime at a national level.  While the Council’s grant funding had been reduced for 2018/19, no new demand was expected to arise from benefit changes.

 

Concern was expressed that the Scrutiny Report appeared to suggest that the agreed DHP policy criteria were being applied with varying degrees of consistency as a direct response to (and to ameliorate the consequences of) varying levels of funding. This was patently not the case and, for the avoidance of doubt, the record should be corrected. To that end, the Scrutiny Committee should be asked to make this clear in its next minutes.

 

In discussion it became clear that while the priorities for the allocation of DHPs had been fine-tuned from year to year to target those with the greatest need (e.g. families prioritised over single people)  the policy at a particular time had always been applied consistently. In practice, no one who needed access to the fund had been denied it. 

 

Cllr Tidball said that representations would be made to the Government about a number of groups for whom additional help seemed likely to be needed.  These included those for whom Universal Credit payments were delayed; young people as they reach the age of 20 and are in certain categories of education and or have special educational needs or a disability; and those discharged from hospital or prison. In the absence of a satisfactory national response additional local support may be necessary.

 

The City Executive Board resolved to:

 

 

Approve the amendments to  the current Discretionary Housing Payment policy and to note the trends in expenditure detailed in the report.