The DHP scheme is designed to provide further financial assistance to residents in receipt of Housing Benefit (HB) or the housing element of Universal Credit (UC).
DHP is purely discretionary; a resident does not have a statutory right to a payment.
Decisions are made in accordance with ordinary principles of good decision making i.e. duty to act fairly, reasonably and consistently, but all claims will be considered on their own merits.
Each year cash limited funds are provided by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to support the payment of DHPs.
The policy is managed based on the funding received. Norwich City Council (the council) is fully committed to supporting residents in need therefore will be working with other services across and with our partners to identify alternative sources of funding to support their needs rather than having a reliance on a DHP in the long term.
1. DHP funding aims to alleviate short term financial need whilst working with the resident to secure longer term changes in personal or housing circumstances which make housing costs more sustainable.
2. The purpose of this policy is to provide financial support for those most in need. Officers will work with and support those receiving a DHP to find longer term solutions to reduce the gap between their housing costs and the ability to meet those costs where no other financial support is available or appropriate. Other means of financial support include the council's homelessness prevention fund, designed to prevent homelessness for vulnerable clients.
3. The purpose of a DHP is to support residents regardless of whom their landlord is. It does not (and by law cannot) support owner occupiers or other groups without liability for defined “housing costs”.
4. The national context is that DHPs can be awarded “when a Local Authority (LA) considers that a claimant requires further financial assistance ”.
5. This policy also supports the 2022-26 corporate plan objective of “People living independently and well in a diverse and safe city” -
providing the right support to residents at the right time, with a focus on early help and prevention to reduce financial and social inequalities and to prevent people from becoming homeless through providing advice and alternative housing options.
6. The policy will support the following objectives:
- Alleviate poverty, prevent homelessness and supporting domestic violence victims trying to move to a place of safety;
- Keep residents in their own home, whether it be social housing or privately rented, provided the home is of realistic size at reasonable cost for the needs of the family and there are good reasons why it would not be possible to move
- Support residents to move to suitable alternative accommodation where that provides the best long-term solution to better meeting their housing costs;
- Support the vulnerable or elderly
- Support household stability to ensure that education is not disrupted;
- Keep families together;
- Keep local support mechanisms in place; where either the resident is in receipt of or providing support;
- Assist residents who need to live near their jobs because they work unsocial hours or split shifts; or where moving home may mean living in an area where public transport would be inadequate to enable them to sustain their current job;
- Make best use of a variety of sources of discretionary awards
7. The council is committed to working collaboratively internally and externally to maximise residents’ entitlement to all benefits and discounts.
8. Current DWP guidance states that requests for a DHP must come from someone who is in receipt of:
- housing benefit or receiving the housing element of universal credit
- and is liable for housing costs
- and requires “further financial assistance with housing costs”
9. Consequently, applications will not be considered for anyone who has only an entitlement under a local council tax reduction scheme.
10. Applications will not be considered for periods of rent when no housing benefit or housing element of universal credit is in payment.
There are certain elements of a resident’s rent that the housing benefit and universal credit regulations exclude so they cannot be included as housing costs for the purposes of a DHP. Excluded elements are:
- ineligible services, including provision and costs of white goods
- increases in rent due to outstanding rent arrears
- certain sanctions and reductions in benefit
11. Any applications from those in receipt of UC will have their claims assessed considering their total UC entitlement and whether there is a housing component to that claim.
12. Requests to back date claims will be allowed. However, these can only be for a period where benefit was in payment i.e., cannot be backdated to a time before housing benefit or housing element of UC was in payment.
Application and decision process
13. A claim must be made using the claim form provided by the council. This can be obtained by contacting the Customer Contact Team at Norwich City Council or completed online at www.norwich.gov.uk/ApplyForDHP. Reasonable adjustments will be made where alternative forms of claim may be more suitable.
14. Evidence and information to support the claim may be required and this must be provided within one month of the council asking for the information unless there are good reasons for the delay e.g., difficulty in obtaining written evidence from a third party. If the evidence and information is not provided within one month or a good reason for the delay is not provided the application will be refused. A new application may be submitted once the evidence and information are available.
15. No costs shall be borne by Norwich City Council in the provision of this evidence.
16. The claim must be made by the resident who is receiving the qualifying benefit or their “official appointee”. An official appointee is a person who has been authorised by the DWP to act on a resident’s behalf, or who holds a power of attorney. Applications will be accepted from support agencies, where they have assisted the application in completing the form.
17. Claims will be determined within 21 days, or as soon as practicably possible, from the date that all required information has been received from the applicant.
18. All the circumstances of the resident and their immediate household will be considered. The resident may be required to provide documentary evidence to assist the determination of their claim.
19. Reference may be made to other available evidence held by the council e.g., benefit claim records. Access to other benefits will be checked and, where appropriate, referral to other agencies will be recommended.
20 In making an award, assessment officers may take into consideration whether previous DHP awards have been made. They shall also consider the resident’s willingness and ability to resolve their housing issues and what actions are or have been taken to achieve this. This may result in a lower award than previously awarded.
21. By making an application for DHP the resident is giving the council’s revenues and benefits service their authority to access information already available to them to determine the outcome of an application.
22. It is the responsibility of the resident to submit a new application when an award expires. Updated evidence will be required and may include confirmation of efforts to maximise income during the preceding DHP award period. A subsequent award may not necessarily be made even where the person’s circumstances have not changed.
Period of award
23. The DHP will normally be paid for up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
24. Payments are designed to be short term and temporary in nature with a flexible mechanism to enable longer term payment only if appropriate. In some cases, there may be an obvious duration period such as, for example, supporting a resident in the final three months of an assured shorthold tenancy where relationship breakdown has impacted their income.
25. Others will appear to be much longer term. For example, households in disabled adapted properties whose personal circumstances are likely to mean that the need for the adaptation is likely to be lifelong. The policy should enable reassessment of personal circumstances such as income and expenditure which may change over time. The council will explore other funding options to reduce the reliance on a DHP in the long term.
26. Each award will consider both the reason for the application and the period over which adjustment or personal and / or financial circumstances could be adjusted to meet the financial shortfall.
27. A DHP is normally a weekly or monthly amount. The amount awarded cannot exceed the difference between the weekly HB and the eligible rent. For those in receipt of UC, an award cannot exceed the monthly housing element.
DHP payments to Norwich City Council tenants will be made direct to their rent accounts.
DHP payments to Norwich City Council tenants in receipt of UC will be made direct to their bank account unless there is a managed payment in place. In these cases, the DHP payment will be made direct to their rent account.
28. Where the DHP is a one-off payment for rent in advance, a rental deposit or moving costs the amount awarded is not restricted by the HB award or the housing element of UC.
Changes of circumstance and recovery of DHP
29. Where a DHP has been awarded and the resident’s circumstances change, they are required to inform Norwich City Council in writing within 14 days of the date of the change. Documents can be submitted online; www.norwich.gov.uk/submitevidence For this purpose, a change of circumstances is defined in the same way as those requiring notification for Housing Benefit or UC purposes.
30. The award of DHP can be reduced or ended when there is a change of circumstances.
31. A DHP award can be ended when:
- the period of the award expires;
- there is a change of circumstances;
- if the council decides that the award has been made based on a misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact, fraudulently or otherwise; or
- it has been paid as the result of an error.
32. A DHP payment, or payments, will be recovered where the council decides that the award has been made on the basis of a misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact, fraudulently or otherwise; or it has been paid as the result of an error made when the claim was determined.
33. Civil Procedures may be used if necessary to enforce recovery.
The right to seek a review
34. As DHP awards are entirely discretionary, there is no right of appeal. If a resident’s circumstances change, or if they wish to submit revised information, a new application can be made.
35. If a resident does not agree with the initial decision, then a request for a reconsideration can be made within 28 days of notification. The request must state reasons for disagreement with the decision and provide evidence of income or expenditure different to that considered at the first decision.
36. The reconsideration will be determined within 14 days of Norwich City Council receiving a fully evidenced request.
37. A panel formed from senior officers of the revenue and benefits service not involved in the first decision shall consider the reconsideration request.
38. There will be no further appeal process to Norwich City Council. A decision on a DHP does not carry a right of appeal to a Social Security Tribunal. The route of judicial review is available; and a complaint may be made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if there is an allegation of maladministration.
39. The Benefits Service will publicise the policy 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 the council’s website. Information about the amount spent will not normally be made available except at the end of the financial year.
40. The council can supplement the DHP budget from the general fund so long as it does not exceed an overall cash limit. This top- up must not exceed two and a half times the government contribution.
41. Given the pressures on budgets the council will not in general supplement the DHP budget above the monies granted each year by DWP.
42. The council does understand that decisions need to be equitable over the year and therefore regular monitoring of the DHP budget will take place. If the policy needs to be amended in the face of demand or the DHP budget needs short term support from the general fund in exceptional circumstances, then such decisions will be made through the appropriate governance framework.
43. Under powers within the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001 (as amended – the “Regulations”). The council has the ability to authorise discretionary housing payments (DHP) to those who may “require some further financial assistance…to meet housing costs”.
44. These powers are also supported and guided by the DWP “DHP Guidance Manual” 1(guidance introduced from April 2013 and subject to update – the “Guidance”). The latest guidance was published in May 2022.
45. From April 2013 these funds will only be eligible to those who are in receipt of housing benefit (or the Housing Element of universal credit) and have a rental liability. Eligibility has been removed for those receiving support under the localised Council Tax Reduction Scheme if they do not receive housing benefit (or universal credit) as well.