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What are Discretionary Housing Payments?

A Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) is a short-term, extra payment from your local council to help with housing costs if you receive Housing Benefits or Universal Credit. Think of it as a financial boost when you're really struggling to afford your rent.  It can even help cover costs like a rent deposit if you're moving. DHPs are not taxable.

Growing Need for DHPs

As the cost of living rises, more people need help with housing expenses.  In May 2022, there were 2.6 million people claiming housing benefits in the UK, and that number is likely higher now.

Who can apply and what does DHP cover?

To find out if you're eligible and how DHPs can help you, contact your local council and submit an application.

Eligibility for DHP

To understand if you might qualify for Discretionary Housing Payments, there are a few key things to consider:

  • Benefits: You must already be receiving Housing Benefits or the housing element of Universal Credit.

  • Age: You need to meet the age requirements set for Housing Benefits or Universal Credit.

  • Rent Responsibility: You must be legally responsible for paying the rent for your home.

Your Council's Decision

Even if you meet these basic conditions, remember that your local council ultimately decides if you receive any DHP, and how much. They carefully consider your individual situation, including:

  • Your Income: They'll review how much money you have coming in from all sources.

  • Your Savings: Do you have any money set aside that could help with housing costs?

  • Other Financial Support: Whether you or anyone in your household could financially contribute.

  • Debts: Your local council looks at any existing loans or debts you may have.

  • Refinancing Options: They'll want to know if you've tried to rearrange your finances to improve your situation.

  • Exceptional Circumstances: This includes factors like ill-health, disability, or other difficult personal situations.

  • Your Efforts: Have you actively tried to find ways to improve your financial situation?

Important Note: Each council makes decisions on a case-by-case basis, considering all these factors together.

How to Apply for DHP

Applying for Discretionary Housing Payments starts with contacting your local council. This is usually the council in the area where you live. While the general process is similar, each council may have slightly different procedures and forms for DHP applications. It's best to check with your council for their specific process.

When you contact your council, they'll likely ask about your financial situation in detail. They aim to understand why you're struggling with housing costs and to determine your eligibility based on the factors we discussed earlier.  Your council will then review your individual circumstances and decide whether to award you DHP, how much you might receive, and for how long.

How Much DHP Can I Receive & What Does It Cover?

Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to how much Discretionary Housing Payments you could get. The amount, and the length of time you receive it, is decided by your local council based on your specific needs and circumstances.

Here's what DHP can potentially help cover:

  • Rent Shortfalls: If there's a gap between your Housing Benefit/Universal Credit and your rent amount.

  • Deposits: Assistance with paying a deposit on a new rental property.

  • Rent in Advance: Help with upfront rent costs, especially if you need to move urgently.

Important to Note: DHP cannot be used to cover council tax, even if you receive Local Council Tax Support.

Challenging a DHP Decision

If you disagree with your local council's decision about your DHP application, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Request a Review: Start by asking your council to reconsider their decision. You'll need to explain your reasons clearly in writing. The council should then provide a written response with the outcome of their review and the reasoning behind it.

  • Submit a Complaint: If you're still unhappy with the outcome, or feel the way your request was handled was unfair, you can file a formal complaint with the council. Follow their specific complaint procedures.

  • Limited Appeals: Unfortunately, there's no formal appeal process for DHP decisions. In rare cases, you might be able to seek a Judicial Review in the High Court, but this would require legal advice.

Important Note: It's best to gather as much information as possible about your council's DHP decision process and complaint procedures before taking any of these steps.

Other Financial Support Options When Moving

Discretionary Housing Payments are one avenue for potential help with housing costs, but it's important to be aware of other options available depending on your circumstances.

Here's a brief overview:

Support Type


Where to Find More Info

Short-Term Benefit Advance (STBA)

A loan if you're newly eligible for Universal Credit but waiting for your first payment. Repayments deducted from future benefits.

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)

Helps homeowners on certain benefits with mortgage interest payments, or loans for essential repairs.

Local Welfare Assistance

Some councils use this funding to help residents with crisis expenses, potentially including moving costs. Availability and criteria vary by location.

Contact your local council directly

Disabled Facilities Grants

Helps people with disabilities adapt their homes. Grants can sometimes help with relocation costs if adapting the current home isn't possible.

DHP & The Cost of Living Crisis

The rising cost of living – from food and energy bills to housing costs – has placed a significant strain on many individuals and families across the UK.  This has led to a greater need for support mechanisms like Discretionary Housing Payments.  Changes to benefits, combined with rising prices, mean more people are struggling to meet their housing costs. In turn, this has increased pressure on the DHP system as more people rely on it for financial help to stay in their homes.

A Lifeline in Difficult Times

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are meant to be a short-term solution, but they can make a huge difference for those struggling to afford their housing costs. With the cost of living continuing to rise, DHP is becoming even more important for many people. If you think you might be eligible, don't hesitate to reach out to your local council for information and explore whether it could help you.

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