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MAIDSTONE BOROUGH COUNCIL
9 DECEMBER 2020
REPORT OF THE POLICY AND RESOURCES COMMITTEE HELD ON 25 NOVEMBER 2020
DISCRETIONARY HOUSING PAYMENTS
Issue for Decision
The Council is provided with an annual Discretionary Housing Payment grant by the Department for Work and Pensions in order to provide additional financial support to that awarded through the Housing Benefit scheme.
Whilst the Council already has a Discretionary Housing Payment Policy in place,
Appendix 1 to this report sets out an updated Policy to be approved.
That the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) Policy as shown in Appendix 1 to the report, be adopted.
Reasons for Recommendation
The Council is provided with an annual Discretionary Housing Payment
grant by the Department for Work and Pensions in order to provide
additional financial support to that awarded through the Housing Benefit
Discretionary Housing Payments operate outside the main benefit system
but for ease of administration are normally paid alongside Housing Benefit.
The payments are limited to providing support with housing related costs
for residents in receipt of Housing Benefit or the housing element of
Universal Credit. Support is restricted to those within the rental sector and
cannot support homeowners.
The budget available to Maidstone Borough Council in 2020-21 is £406,051,
which includes additional funding because of the expected take up of
Discretionary Housing Payments due to COVID19. Last year 2019-20 the
budget was £302,510.
Whilst this represents a significant budget, demand for DHP is high with
support targeted to help those households affected by welfare reform or
who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Last year (2019-20), 354 residents benefitted from a DHP award which was
given for reasons such as
· shortfall in rent whilst moving to a more affordable property
· removal costs as downsizing
· partner died, shortfall in rent whilst applying benefits
· possession order - paid to prevent eviction
· assist move from temporary accommodation
The Council already has a Discretionary Payment Policy in place which was
approved by the Council in 2017. The Policy has been updated to provide
· a DHP payment is a short-term emergency fund
· applications will only be accepted from a person within the Council’s
· provides a framework for officers to be guided in decision making whilst
ensuring consistent treatment but allowing for sufficient discretion
· applications can be made by someone acting on behalf of someone else
who is vulnerable or needs support
· the customer is expected to take responsibility such as taking tenancies
at reasonable rents, seeks/receives appropriate housing advice,
provides sufficient proof of debts/expenditure, shows evidence of job
seeking activities (where not vulnerable)
On recommendation of Internal Audit, the Policy will be updated and
approved on an annual basis in future.
The policy sets out the Council’s aims in operating the DHP scheme and the
types of situations that it will prioritise such as to:
· help alleviate poverty
· encourage employment
· prevent homelessness
· support vulnerable households
· provide support at a time of crisis
Alternatives Considered and Why Not Recommended
The impact of not adopting this revised policy means the council is working to an out of date policy.
Appendix 1 – Discretionary Housing Payment Policy
Appendix 2 – Audit Report Discretionary Housing Payments
Appendix 3 – EqIA