Discretionary Housing Payments

Last week the Government published statistics on the amount local authorities have spent on discretionary housing payments (DHPs). The use of cash-limited discretionary housing payments has been become a mainstream part of the Housing Benefit offer, rather than the marginal role they were intended to play in smoothing out rough edges when first introduced.

Commenting on the statistics I said:

“It’s extremely worrying that the latest DWP data on Discretionary Housing Payments shows that 40% of local authorities spent all of the money allocated to them by Government, went over-budget or received funds elsewhere. On average local authorities spent 103% of their DHP allocation from Government.

“The key issue with Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) is that they are discretionary. Tenants have to wait each year to see if they’ll continue to receive discretionary support or not. DHP were introduced to tide people over from reductions in housing benefit payments particularly from the Bedroom Tax. Labour has consistently opposed the bedroom tax and we would abolish it.

“Because local authorities apply the eligibility criteria for discretionary housing payments differently, it means there is no consistency; some local authorities have even being excluding disabled people from receiving DHP although two thirds of households affected by the Bedroom Tax include a disabled person.

“The impact in places like London is that people on low incomes affected by the Bedroom Tax without DHP support are being displaced from their homes.

“Oldham Council was one of the 40% of local authorities who exceeded the Government’s DHP allocation and had to contribute their own funds to ensure the most vulnerable families locally are protected.

“Immense strain has been placed on people on low incomes, and on the local services now tasked with providing a basic local safety net – a net that is needed as a direct result of this Government’s policies. The government must act now and scrap the bedroom tax and its reduction in the benefit cap but maintain DHP funding levels until this happens.”

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