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DWP adopts our wording for DHP Guidance

10 April 2014

The DWP has issued new DWP Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) Guidance to local authorities.

Two problems regularly expressed by disabled people in relation to DHPs are:

  • DHPs being awarded and renewed for very short periods - often as little as three months; and
  • DLA being routinely included as an income resource when assessing DHP applications.

Disability Rights UK responded last month to a DWP consultation on its draft version of the new guidance.

Our proposed wording in relation to advice on the length of DHP awards has been adopted in full, with the new guidance stating:

“For example, if you were to award a DHP to a disabled claimant who lives in significantly adapted accommodation in the social rented sector but who is subject to the removal of the spare room subsidy, you should consider the DHP on a longer-term basis, including an indefinite award subject to a relevant change in their circumstances.

DHPs should also be considered on a longer term basis for claimants who have a medical condition that makes it difficult to share a bedroom. Long term awards should also be made in cases where a disabled child who would normally be expected to share a bedroom under size criteria rules requires a separate room, and provides evidence that this is the case but does not meet the HB criterion of being in receipt of the Middle and Higher rates of DLA Care.”

It is hoped that this might give some greater security to disabled people and prevent the worry and stress caused by making continual DHP requests.

The previous version of the guidance suggested only that local authorities “may” disregard DLA income when assessing DHP applications.

However, the new guidance instead advises that:

“… you may decide to disregard income from disability related benefits as they are intended to be used to help pay for the extra costs of disability. As part of the application process you should take care to ascertain whether such money is committed to other liabilities for which it was intended, such as Motability schemes or provision of care, seeking evidence regarding expenditure from the claimant. If you do decide to take such income into account then you should consider providing an explanation to the claimant as to why you have done so.”

It is to be hoped that this guidance will lead councils to reconsidering adopting a blanket policy of refusing DHPs on the grounds that DLA should be used to fund shortfalls in housing benefit.

However, the onus remains on disabled people to defend their award of DLA and justify its expenditure - whereas the housing benefit scheme itself automatically disregards income from disability related benefits as they are intended to be used to help pay for the extra costs of disability.

Our legal partners, Irwin Mitchell solicitors, are taking judicial review action that if successful could more firmly establish that DLA must be disregarded as income for DHP purposes - see

 http://www.irwinmitchell.com/newsandmedia/2014/January/Green-Light-For-Judicial-Review-Into-Sandwell-Councils-Housing-Benefit-Assessment

Yet even this will be a sticking plaster - disabled people have a right to live in accommodation suitable for their needs and to any rental support they need should be provided by housing benefit and not a post code lottery discretionary scheme.

Disability Rights UK is still clear that the bedroom tax discriminates against disabled people and that it must be scrapped. 

The DWP Discretionary Housing Payment Guidance Manual (April 2014) is available at  

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/300220/discretionary-housing-payments-guide-apr-14.pdf

You can find out more information on the bedroom tax and discretionary housing payments in the following factsheets: