What are Discretionary Payments?
You can apply for a discretionary payment if you need further financial assistance with your council tax and/or housing costs. There are two discretionary payment schemes:
- Exceptional Hardship Payments can help with your council tax costs. To qualify you must be entitled to Council Tax Reduction or have received Council Tax Reduction within the last 6 weeks.
- Discretionary Housing Payments can help with your housing costs. To qualify you must be entitled to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit that includes a housing element towards rental liability.
Exceptional Hardship Payments
The exceptional hardship fund is a discretionary scheme set up by us and funded by the income from council tax. The amount of money we have for this is limited so the help available will be for a set period and amount.
If you are experiencing extreme financial hardship you may be able to claim some discretionary assistance with your council tax. This is not a cash payment but a payment to your council tax account.
Discretionary Housing Payments
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are extra payments made at the Council's discretion to help people on Housing Benefit (HB) or Universal Credit (UC) who are in serious financial difficulty. They are not Housing Benefit awards but are free-standing payments and can only be made to help with housing costs for a specified time period. The amount of money we have for these payments is subject to an annual cash limit.
Housing costs means rental liability, but can include:
- Rent in advance
- Other lump sum costs associated with a housing need such as removal costs.
What types of shortfalls can DHPs cover?
- Reductions in HB or UC where the benefit cap has been applied;
- Reductions in HB or UC due to the maximum rent (social sector) size criteria – in this category consideration will especially be given if the property has been significantly adapted and you have the need for such a property, or you are a foster carer;
- Reductions in HB or UC as a result of local housing allowance restrictions (LHA);
- Rent officer restrictions such as local reference rent (LRR) or shared accommodation rate (SRR);
- Non-dependant deductions in HB, or housing cost contributions in UC;
- Rent shortfalls to prevent homeless whilst the housing authority explores alternative options;
- Income taper reduction;
- Rent deposits or rent in advance schemes for a property that you have yet to move into if you are already entitled to HB or UC for your present home;
- Removal costs.
Certain elements of your rent cannot be included in housing costs for the purposes of a DHP because the regulations exclude them. These elements are:
- Ineligible service charges, for example, water rates, electricity or meals;
- Increases in rent due to outstanding rent arrears;
- Certain sanctions and reductions in benefit;
- Assistance with Council Tax.