2. Why has the council introduced this policy?
2.1 The DHP scheme has been in operation since 2nd July 2001 to provide additional help to tenants facing a shortfall in their Housing Benefit (HB) and housing costs who are facing exceptional hardship such as debt issues and need some additional financial assistance for a period of time. The scheme also includes support for moving costs, including rent deposits and rent in advance. From November 2015 this scheme includes customers receiving Universal Credit (UC).
2.2 This Policy is intended to ensure that DHPs contribute to the Council’s aims and objectives for the development of the East Devon area and to promote social and financial inclusion.
2.3 There have been a number of significant welfare reforms in recent years which have impacted our customer’s ability to meet their rent payments in full. DHPs can be used to provide support to customers affected by these key welfare reforms. Examples of some of these reforms include:
- The introduction and subsequent reduction of the Benefit Cap.
- Size restrictions for customers living in social rented sector accommodation.
- The introduction of the shared accommodation rate for single customers under 35 years of age.
- The change to up-rating Local Housing Allowance (LHA) in 2013/14 by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and by 1% in 2014/15 and 2015/16. The freezing of LHA for 4 years from 2016/17.
- The Localisation of Council Tax Support - There is a separate Exceptional Hardship Fund Policy which deals with additional help for Council Tax Support customers.
- The introduction of Universal Credit (UC) which replaces Housing Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit into one monthly payment.
2.4 We need to manage the expectations of customers and welfare agencies successfully as, for the majority of those affected by the welfare reforms, DHP’s will not be able to meet the full shortfall.
2.5 Councils are given a grant each year from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to use for DHP awards. The Council can however, spend up to a maximum of two and a half times the amount of the DWP’s DHP grant. Any sum paid above the DWP grant level will be paid from EDDC’s General Fund, any unspent grant at the end of the financial year must be returned to the DWP.
2.6 DHP’s are discretionary and it is up to East Devon District Council to determine how to operate any such scheme. There is no statutory right to a payment of DHP and the Council must be satisfied that a customer is genuinely in need of further financial assistance with their housing costs to prevent exceptional hardship.
2.7 Each application will be considered on an individual basis with all customers being treated equally and fairly. All payments will be made in line with our Housing Benefit purpose statement, i.e. to pay the right person, the right amount at the right time.
2.8 DHP’s cannot cover:
- Ineligible service charges. Service charges which are not eligible for HB or UC cannot be covered by DHP;
- Increases in rent due to outstanding rent arrears;
- Sanctions and reductions in benefit from Jobcentre Plus;
- Benefit suspensions; and
- Shortfalls caused by HB overpayment recovery.