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 Local Housing Allowance) 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 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 some short term assistance.
What happens next?
When we receive your completed application we will contact you to discuss your circumstances. We may do this over the phone or by visiting you at your home. This will help us to 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 explaining our decision. The letter will tell you whether we are able to give you any help and for how long. We will also give you some 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. You will need to explain why you think our decision is wrong. Another officer will look at your application; they may need to contact you for more information. They will then write to you giving their decision.
How will you pay me a DHP?
If we deicide that we are to make a DHP award we will pay this along with your Housing Benefit entitlement. So 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 the Housing Benefit payments and if you have rent arrears we may pay your landlord direct to help protect your tenancy.
What happens if my circumstances change?
You need to contact us straight away if your circumstances change. We will look again at our decision. We may need to reduce or stop your award.
What can I do if I am struggling to pay my rent?
Review all your expenditure. It may be that you need to budget better, reduce 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 be 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 on a job or additional hours? Could other family members who live with you e.g. grown up son or daughter contribute more to the 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 which helps people access the money available to them - through welfare benefits, grants and other help. Visit the Turn2us website.
- entitled to - 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. The online benefit calculators can be accessed on the Entitled To 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 then they often are able to offer a wide range of 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 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 - is 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 Debts and Saving Money
If you are worried about debts please contact one of the following organisations who give free and confidential advice.
- Step Change - offer tailored advice and practical solution 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 Debt Line website.
You may 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 different 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.
U Switch can give you free and impartial advice on whether there are cheaper gas or electric providers and also give you energy saving tips. Please visit the U Switch website.
Broadband / TV packages - if you are struggling financially you may need to make a decision whether you can afford any current broadband or TV packages. 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 U Switch website. Your current supplier may also be willing to reduce the cost of your package so you could try contacting them. You need to check that if you cancel or reduce your package that you are not still in a contract period which may mean that 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 or texts that you don't use? If you are struggling financially you may need to consider reducing any none 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.