What is a Discretionary Housing Payment?
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are extra payments that we may be able to pay if your Housing Benefit or Housing Costs paid under Universal Credit doesn’t cover your full rent and you are struggling to afford to pay the difference.
A DHP cannot cover ineligible service charges - such as charges for heating, water or food; it also cannot cover Council Tax Benefit. However, if you receive Council Tax Support and are struggling to afford the shortfall between this support and your Council Tax charge, we may be able to give you some short term assistance through our Council Tax Hardship scheme, which you can apply to via the DHP application.
What happens next?
When we receive your completed application, we will contact you to discuss your circumstances. This is mainly done over the phone, but if a face-to-face meeting is required, we can arrange an appointment at our offices at Southwater. This will help us get a clear understanding of the reasons for your application, collect any further information and discuss any help or advice that may be available to you.
We will write to you to explain our decision. This letter will tell you whether we are able to give you any help, and if so, for how long. We will also give you advice on what you can do to improve your financial circumstances.
What do I do if I disagree with your decision?
You will need to write to us within one month of our decision letter and explain why you think our decision is wrong. Another Officer will look at your application and may need to contact you for more information. They will then write to you to give you their decision.
How will you pay me a DHP?
If we decide to make a DHP award, we will pay this along with your Housing Benefit entitlement. If we usually pay your Housing Benefit to your landlord, we will pay your DHP to them at the same time. If you are receiving Housing Benefit payments and have rent arrears, we may pay your landlord directly to help protect your tenancy.
If you’re in receipt of Housing Costs through Universal Credit, we will consider paying either yourself or your Landlord, depending on your circumstances, but again we may look to pay the DHP to your landlord - especially if you have rent arrears and your tenancy needs protecting.
What happens if my circumstances change?
You need to contact us straight away if your circumstances change. We will then look again at our decision and may need to reduce or stop your award.
What can I do if I am struggling to pay my rent?
Review all of your expenditure
It may be that you need to budget better, reduce your none-essential expenditure or check that you are not paying more than you need to for essential expenditure.
The following organisations are able to offer advice on budgeting:
- Citizens Advice helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent advice. Visit the Citizens Advice website.
- Age UK - Age Concern and Help the Aged have joined forces to become Age UK. They provide a wide range of information and advice. Visit the Age UK website.
- Money Advice Service are an independent service set up by the Government to help people make the most of their money. They give free and unbiased money advice. Visit the Money Advice Service website.
Check to see if you can increase your income
Are you receiving all the benefits or grants you are entitled to? Could you or your partner take a job or work additional hours? Could other family members who live with you, for example a grown-up son or daughter, contribute more to your household expenses? Could you take on a lodger?
Child Maintenance Options is a free service that provides impartial advice and support to help separated parents make decisions about their child maintenance arrangements. Visit the Child Maintenance Options website.
The following organisations can help you check if you are in receipt of the benefits you are entitled to:
- Turn2us is a charitable service that helps people access the money available to them through welfare benefits, grants and other help. Visit the Turn2us website
- entitledto is a provider of online benefit calculators that people can use to check their benefit entitlement and to see if they may be entitled to other types of benefits. These calculators can be accessed on the entitledto website.
Please remember to notify the Council's Benefit Service if you have a change in your income or household circumstances.
Consider speaking to your landlord
If you rent from a private landlord, they may be willing to reduce your rent, perhaps for a short time, whilst you get your finances back on track. Not all landlords can afford or will be able to do this - but it is worth asking. If you rent from a social landlord, they are often able to offer wide-ranging support e.g. budgeting advice, benefit advice, etc.
Consider moving to more affordable accommodation
If you have considered all the above and still can't afford your rent, you may need to make the decision to move to more affordable accommodation. If you rent from a social landlord (Housing Association), your landlord will be able to give you advice on the options available.
The following organisations can also provide housing advice:
- Housing Options Team - the Council's Housing Options team can give you advice if you are facing eviction, homelessness or need general housing advice. They can be contacted on 01952 381925.
- Shelter - a charity that works to alleviate the distress caused by homelessness and bad housing. They give advice, information and advocacy to people in housing need. Visit the Shelter website.
Further advice on debt and saving money
If you are worried about debt, please contact one of the following organisations, who can give free and confidential advice.
- Step Change offer tailored advice and practical solutions to help people manage their debt and make a fresh start. They can be contacted on 0800 138 1111 (this is a freephone, including all mobiles) or visit the Step Change website.
- National Debt Line is a helpline that provides free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems. They can be contacted on 0808 808 4000 or visit the National Debtline website.
You may also wish to consider the following to help you save money:
Gas/Electric - if you are on certain benefits, your utility provider may be able to offer a discount. Each provider has their own criteria, so check their website or telephone them.
Check that you are not using more gas or electricity than you need to. For example, switch off any electrical equipment you are not using or see if you can turn down your heating thermostat. The energy saving trust can give you independent advice on saving energy. Visit the Energy Saving Trust website.
Free and impartial advice is given by uSwitch on whether there are cheaper gas or electric providers. They can also give you energy saving tips. Please visit the uSwitch website.
Broadband/TV packages - if you are struggling financially, you may need to make a decision about whether you can afford any broadband or TV packages you have. Check to see if your current package offers the best value. Are there, for example, any channels you don't use? You can compare the cost of TV packages on the uSwitch website. Your current supplier may also be willing to reduce the cost of your package, so you could try contacting them. You will need to check that if you cancel or reduce your package, you are not still in a contract period that may mean you are still charged for the original package.
Mobile telephones - review your mobile telephone contract to ensure that you are on the best tariff for you. Are you in a contract paying for minutes, texts or data that you don't use? If you are struggling financially, you may need to consider reducing any non-essential usage. You also need to consider if pay-as-you go or a contract is best for you.
Pets - if you are a pet owner, the PDSA may be able to offer free/reduced veterinary fees for pet owners who are on a low income. Details can be found on the PDSA website.