Council tax support consultation 2019
Comment on proposed changes to our council tax support scheme, which would come into effect from 1 April 2020.
Discretionary housing payments
What is a “DHP” for?
- If the amount of help you get with your rent from housing benefit or universal credit is less than the rent you have to pay then you may be able to get a DHP
- If you need to pay rent in advance of moving into a property, or if you need help with a deposit, then you may be able to get a DHP
- If you need help with removal costs, for example because you have to move to a more suitable home, than you may be able to get a DHP
To avoid any delay you should apply for a DHP as soon as you can. If you need help to make an application, remember that you'll still need to sign the form yourself.
Help to pay rent
Where the money you get from your housing benefit (HB) or universal credit (UC) is less than the rent you have to pay there will be a “shortfall”. Getting help to pay this shortfall isn't automatic; in order to qualify for help via a DHP you must first be entitled to help with rent from housing benefit or universal credit.
If you want to apply for a DHP you need to complete the "Discretionary housing payment form – shortfall’, attached to this page. The form is available in both word and pdf format.
The types of shortfall that DHPs can cover are as follows:
- Where your HB or UC has been reduced because of the benefit cap
- Where your HB or UC has been reduced because of the removal of the spare room subsidy (often called the “bedroom tax”)
- Where your HB or UC has been reduced because of restrictions in the amount of help you can get with a private rent
- Where the amount of rent you've been allowed in your benefit is affected by other people living in your home
- Where your HB or UC is reduced because you have income coming in
Deposits or rent in advance
We may consider a DHP to help with a deposit or rent in advance if, for example, you need to set up home or you have to move. This will be a one-off payment, and we'll send it directly to your new landlord. You can only get this help if you'll be likely to qualify for HB or UC for housing costs at your new address. For us to consider an award to help, you have to show that you can afford to live in that home.
If you want to apply for a DHP to meet a deposit or rent in advance you'll need to complete the form headed "Discretionary Housing Payment form – rent and deposit in advance", attached to this page. The form is available in both word and pdf format.
What will we need to know?
When you complete your form, you'll need to tell us:
- Why you think you should get extra help
- Details of any special circumstances you think we need to know
- What you're doing about any issues or problems that are affecting you
- Details of anything else you think may help us to make a decision
- Details of all the money you have coming into your household
- Details of all the money you pay out each week (for example your gas bill or electric bill)
If you're asking for help towards a deposit or rent in advance, we also need to know:
- How much money the landlord has asked you to pay (and we'll need to see proof)
- Details of the address you're moving to
- The new landlord’s bank account details so we can make payment if you qualify for an award
Please make sure you tell us as much as you can so that we fully understand your situation. When you've completed your request and sent it to us with all of the information we need, we'll look at your circumstances and make a decision.
If you need any help to fill in a form and you have no-one to help you with it, please call us on 0345 678 9001.
How do we decide if you're entitled to help?
Help from DHPs is not automatic. We'll look at all the facts and information you've given us, but you'll need to show that you can’t afford to pay the money needed.
If you have a housing support worker or someone else helping you, we'll speak to them to see if they'd like to give us additional information that might help.
We'll work with you and, wherever we think it's possible and reasonable for you to do so, we'll expect you to take steps to improve your own circumstances.
So when we make our decision we may list for you the things that we think will help your situation, such as budgeting support and looking for alternative accommodation. We may also refer you to the support organisation SUSTAIN, or to the Shropshire Support Partnership so that they can help. This is important because if you have to ask for our help again we'll expect you to have worked with them to do something to help your situation.
We can't pay a DHP for any of these:
- Service charges or support charges on your home that HB or UC won’t pay for
- Any council tax shortfalls
- Money added to your rent because you're in arrears
- Where your benefit has been reduced by the Department for Work and Pensions, perhaps because of a sanction or because you haven’t co-operated with the Child Support Agency
- Where the help you get with your rent is reduced to recover an overpayment
How much money can I get?
The amount of help you can get will depend on your circumstances. We'll look at the money you have coming in, including any income your partner has (if you have one.) We'll also look at who else is living in your household and whether they pay anything, or could pay anything, towards the rent, and what you might have to pay out. From this we'll work out how much you might be able to pay towards things yourself.
The money we get to allocate to DHPs comes directly from the government, and is strictly limited each year, so we have to make sure it's used properly.
When we look at the money you have to pay out we'll consider what's reasonable for someone to pay. We'll expect you to meet your basic essential living needs first, and if we feel that your outgoings are too high we may only allow what we think is reasonable.
We'll compare what you have coming in with what we feel it's reasonable to pay out. From this we'll decide if you have enough money left over to pay the shortfall in your rent.
If, when we make an award, there are things that we feel you could do to improve the situation, we'll take into account how long this might take. The length of time we'll help will take all of these things into account.
If you're given an award of DHP and we later find out you shouldn't have been entitled to it, we'll ask you to pay the money back to us.
What if I still need help and my award runs out?
For most people, DHPs will help for a short time while you get help to sort out your needs. We can signpost you to suitable support.
If you have to ask for a second award we'll look to see whether you've taken the help on offer. It may affect our decision if we find that you haven't taken the help without good reason.
We won't be able to help you:
- Where you haven't done as we recommended or you haven't taken the steps you needed to
- If your last application was turned down (unless something has changed in your household)
- If you could have done something to stop the situation happening or if you've contributed to the difficulty, for example through reckless or deliberate behaviour
- Where you haven't co-operated with us or other public bodies
In every case, we'll look to see if there's a good reason for what's happened.
The list above is for example only and we'll look at all applications on their own merit.
How to apply
To apply for support through the fund, please call us on 0345 678 9001 to make an application. You'll need to have full details of all the money you have coming in and the money you have to pay out. We may also ask you to provide proof of any savings and capital.
Alternatively, you can download and complete an application form. Please note that there are three different forms, and you'll need to pick the right one for your needs (as explained on this page).
Where to find help
Support with housing
- Shropshire HomePoint provides a one-stop solution for people seeking housing, and manages the Shropshire Housing Register, also known as the Housing Waiting List.
- Citizens Advice Shropshire can help you with a wide range of topics, including benefits and housing.
- Shropshire Housing Alliance is a voluntary organisation supporting people in housing need.
- Shrewsbury Homes For All is a local registered charity working to ensure that people in the Shrewsbury area are adequately housed.
- The Housing Options Team is our own in-house housing and homelessness team
- The Money Advice Service is a free and impartial money advice service set up by central government.
- The Jubilee Money Service is a local charity that can provide budgeting and debt advice (Oswestry and district).
- Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a national charity that helps people in debt and in poverty.
- Barnabas Money Advice is a local charity that can provide budgeting and debt advice (Shrewsbury area).
- Trinity Money Advice Centre is a local charity that can provide budgeting and debt advice (Shrewsbury area).
- Gov.UK is the government’s advice website for customers, containing useful information about various welfare benefits.
Support with finding employment
- Universal Jobmatch is a job search site that allows you to upload your CV, search and apply for jobs, register for alerts and keep track of your past applications.
- County Training can offer help finding employment, and is a major provider of work-based training.