Tag Archives: Discretionary Housing Payments

Hundreds of Thousands Of Households Staring Homelessness in The Face

neighbor-homelessHundreds of thousands of households, many of them with children, are staring homelessness in the face as a direct result of Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms.

Recently released figures show that just under 400,000 households received Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) in 2013/14.  These payments are the sticking plaster used to cover up savage cuts to housing benefits and prevent soaring homelessness in  the run up to the election.  Many of the payments, which are administered by Local Authorities, are being used to meet rent shortfalls due to the Bedroom Tax.

The figures do not show how long people have been given awards for, other than around 15,000 ongoing payments being granted to foster families and disabled people in adapted accommodation hit by the Bedroom Tax or other cuts.  They do show however that over 100,000 families were given short term help until they ‘move into alternative accommodation’.  These represent people forced out of their homes due to Welfare Reforms.  How many have had to uproot children from school and move to new cities is not recorded, and neither is whether they actually secured alternative accommodation or are now living in temporary housing.

Over 20,000 households have received DHPs due to the impact of the Benefit Cap.  This is almost half the total of families affected by the cap on Housing Benefits which makes much of London and the South East unaffordable for those out of work.  The main reason the Benefit Cap has not yet caused the exodus from London, and the expected spike in the number of homeless families, is because lots of people’s benefits haven’t actually been capped yet.  Instead housing costs are now being paid in the most complicated and precarious way possible by Local Authorities.

This makes a mockery of Iain Duncan Smith’s claim to have simplified the benefits system.  Every local authority has different rules about who and why someone can receive DHPs creating a postcode lottery for claimants.  As this week’s figures show, some Councils have massively overspent their DHP allowances, but several others have underspent.  Some twat with a clipboard now makes a decision on whether to condemn people to homelessness, based on the whims of whichever bunch of bastards happens to be running the council at the time.

One thing is for sure which is that this mess is costing a fortune.  Whilst lying bastard Lord Fraud desperately tried to mangle the figures, almost £200 million has been spent on DHPs in the last year.  That’s on top of the huge costs administering the sweeping changes to Housing Benefits which ran to approaching £50 million for the Benefit Cap alone.  This figure also does not include Housing Benefit now being paid out to people forced out of social housing due to the Bedroom Tax and into the vastly more expensive private rented sector.  And of course no-one’s really counting the cost of housing people in temporary accommodation, such as hostels or B&Bs after they have been made homeless by Housing Benefit cuts.

Once again the facts are as stark as they are unarguable.  Changes to Housing Benefits have led to desperate housing insecurity.  What this means is in practice is families unable to plan for the future, children going to bed at night frightened of losing their homes or desperate stress and worry for disabled people receiving help with the Bedroom Tax and knowing that support could be removed at any time.  It is utterly inhumane, breath-takingly inept and costing the tax payer a fortune.  Just another day at the office then for the fucking idiots currently in charge of the DWP.

You can view the figures at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-of-discretionary-housing-payments-2013-to-2014

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Do Not Support Newly Disabled Claimants Hit By Benefit Cap To Stay In Their Homes Recommends DWP

tory-scum-sprayThe DWP has issued guidance to local authorities suggesting that newly sick or disabled claimants affected by the Benefit Cap should go into arrears rather than be awarded Discretionary Housing Payments to cover a shortfall in their rent whilst they await or appeal a benefit decision.

In a further callous move, the Department recommends that the most seriously sick and disabled claimants – who are appealing a decision made by the notorious Atos Work Capability Assessment not to place them in the Support Group – should not be provided with emergency housing payments to top up their rent whilst the appeal takes place.

Around 50,000 households, including 200,000 children, are currently staring homelessness in the face due to the cap on benefits which has made much of the South East of England unaffordable for families out of work.  The Government have claimed sick and disabled people will not be affected by the cap, however only those in the Support Group of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), or those with a current claim for Disability Living Allowance (or its replacement PIP) are exempt.

Most claimants on out of work sickness benefits are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA – meaning they have been assessed as being able to do some work, at some point, in the future.  Unless this group of claimants qualify for DLA, which means they have specific costs associated with care or mobility, they are likely to have to leave their homes if they live in an in area affected by the cap.

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are an ever shrinking pot of money which has been given to Local Authorities to support some of those facing homelessness due to the Bedroom Tax, Benefit Cap or other cuts to benefits.

According to the latest guidance (PDF) from the DWP on how they should be used:

“Where an appeal against a decision not to award an exempting benefit is
pending, the LA should bear in mind that a decision on entitlement has been
made and that the circumstances are not the same as a case where a
decision on entitlement is due. We would not recommend making a DHP
award unless there are mitigating circumstances.”

This means that newly sick and disabled people, such as someone recently diagnosed with cancer or other chronic illness and forced to leave work, will now also face losing their homes if their claim for ESA is wrongly assessed by the notorious IT company Atos.  Meanwhile should councils follow the DWP’s suggestions newly disabled people who have had to give up their jobs will be plunged into rent arrears whilst an application for DLA is made.  This process usually takes around six weeks – but can take  longer.  So those who are coping with not just a recent disability or serious illness, but having to give up work as well, can now add the threat of homelessness to the things they have to worry about.

There is no requirement on Local Authorities to follow this nasty guidance from the DWP and they are free to spend Discretionary Housing Payments any way they choose.  With the paltry amount of money available shrinking year on year, many will be only too happy to follows these suggestions and socially cleanse newly sick and disabled people from their areas. They may even choose to go one step further.  As the recommendations point out, the exemption to the Benefit Cap does not apply during the period of time whilst a claim for ESA is pending.  Many councils are likely to interpret this guidance to avoid paying DHPs to anyone at all whilst they are awaiting an assessment for ESA – which can take months.

ESA claims for those with terminal illnesses are fast tracked in some cases, but claims for many other chronic and life changing conditions are not.  If you live in London, or another high rent area, then do not expect what’s left of the welfare state to support you to stay in your home should you become seriously ill or disabled.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid