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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 1st July 2013

Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

Discretionary Housing Payments

Purpose of the Report

1. For Cabinet to consider and approve a revised policy for the administration of discretionary housing payments in the light of Welfare Reform.

Recommendations

1. That the Policy for the Administration of Discretionary Housing Payments is approved.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. To agree the updated the policy.

Background

2. Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are available to provide help for housing costs in addition to that provided through Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit. DHPs operate under the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations and guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The Council is responsible for the administration and payment of DHPs and administers the scheme in line with a policy framework agreed by Cabinet. Each application for DHP is considered on its own merit. The policy was introduced in 2001 and was updated in 2008, with the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance.

3. The policy now needs to be revised to take account of the recent changes to Housing Benefit, the introduction of the Universal Credit and the abolition of Council Tax Benefit.

Relevant Issues and Options

4. As a result of Welfare Reform, the UK Government has provided additional funding for DHPs, so that councils can alleviate some of the impacts of the key reforms, including the introduction of the benefit cap, the reduction in benefit in cases of over accommodation in the social rented sector and the reductions in the Local Housing Allowance, in particular circumstances.

5. Given these changes and the increase in volume of DHPs it was considered by the Welfare Reform Officer Working Group that the Policy on the Administration of DHPs should be reviewed and revised as necessary. Revised guidance was issued by the DWP in April 2013.

6. The revised policy is attached at Appendix A. The main changes from the 2008 policy are as follows -

revise eligibility criteria to include the housing element of the Universal Credit

remove reference to Council Tax and Council Tax Benefit;

emphasise the use of DHPs as a tool to help prevent homelessness and for liaison between the Benefits and the homelessness service;

in the light of the increased volumes of DHP claim, initial assessment will be undertaken by a Benefits Assistant , with reviews and reconsiderations undertaken by the Appeals Officer;

quarterly monitoring will be undertake by the Head of Financial Services

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

7. The Department of Work and Pensions sets an overall cash limit on the amount of DHPs that can be awarded. Part of the cash limit is funded by grant, with the remainder being funded by the Council.

8. The grant allocation from the DWP for 2013-14 is £219,639. The Council has allocated a further budget of £215,000, giving a total budget of £434,639 for Discretionary Housing Payments.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

9. There are no sustainability and climate change implications

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

10. Discretionary Housing Payments are regulated by the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001, as amended. The overall limits on expenditure are set by the Discretionary Housing Payment (Grants) Order 2001.

Crime and Disorder Implications

11. There are no crime and disorder implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

12. Discretionary Housing Payments will provide additional assistance to housing benefit claimants with their housing costs.

Corporate/Service Objectives

13. The application of the policy and supporting procedures will assist the Council in meeting the corporate objective of reducing poverty and exclusion.

Policy Framework and Budget

14. This is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

15. The policy implications have been considered by the Welfare Reform Officer Working Group.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

16. Scrutiny (Housing and Public Protection)

Background Papers

Discretionary Housing Payments Guidance Manual; Department for Work and Pensions; April 2013

Contact Officer

Clive Teague

Officers Consulted

Welfare Reform Officer Working Group

Responsible Officer:

Sian Davies - Director of Resourc

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