Discretionary Housing Payment, the DHP, was until recently a little known pot of money that was and is given to local councils by central government. It is allocated money and so council A gets so much, council B gets so much etc and so each council has a finite amount allocated which they may choose to add to or not. If councils do not spend their allocation they lose it.
It is used as each council wishes for whoever each individual council decides is needy and that is highly subjective but fits in with what the Tories like to call “Localism” or in their political shorthand local people know local needs best. This also means of course that if you are aggrieved that you don’t get a DHP then the blame for that in political terms rests with your local council and not with central government. We gave your council £x million this year and if THEY chose not to award to you Mrs Jones then that is THEIR choice, so don’t blame us.
There is going to be one hell of a lot of aggrieved social tenants who are being urged like crazy by all social landlords to apply for a DHP yet have in all reality two types of hope in getting a DHP – Bob Hope and No Hope to coin the old saying.
Yet because the bedroom ‘tax’ has been the talk of the town for the last 6 weeks or so and has had so much media attention DHP has been a phrase used over and over again and anyone would think it is ONLY the bedroom ‘tax’ affected tenant that can get a DHP!
This is absolute nonsense (that’s a euphemism for a load of bollocks!) and DHPs are available to anyone yet whenever a case is raised for a new non-exempted client group or category of person emerges such as foster carers or the severely disabled child, or any other ‘deserving’ group the government used the stock phrase we have put £x million extra this year into DHPs.
Local councils become Jesus and the DHP pot consists of two loaves and five fishes yet there is a hell of lot more than 5000 to feed. In fact I am quite pleased with that analogy as it means even a miracle worker wouldn’t have a hope in hell’s chance of making ends meet and for so many if a DHP is not paid then the applicant won’t eat and will go hungry!
Question: How much is in the DHP pot?
Answer: £155m in 2013/14
Wow that sounds a lot! I will come on to that reader but think £3m per week spread across the country for now. Doesn’t sound so much does it?
Question: So who can claim a DHP?
Answer: Anyone who needs help with housing costs
Let’s dig a bit deeper and firstly, there are 3,708,010 working-age people that currently claim Council Tax Benefit (CTB) which is being axed. What you say! This comes from the DHP pot? Yes, DHPs are used for this too and currently each of these 3.7m receives £15.75 per week in CTB which is £58.4m per week out of this £3m per week DHP pot. But of course council tax replacement schemes which will average 17% next year mean the DHP pot will need £10m or so per week to cover this.
Then there are 1,655,360 private sector tenants claiming housing benefit of local housing allowance. If the shortfall there is a mere £20 per week this would be £33m or eleven times the entire DHP budget alone.
And there was you dear reader thinking the entire DHP pot was for social tenants caught by the bedroom ‘tax’ alone!
Well that’s not surprising or your fault is it as the government have been saying we have made £x million available in DHPs every time anyone questions the bedroom tax! Even when the government has said in allegedly specific terms we have made £30m available in DHPs for disabled people or any other such nonsense, remember that the ‘D’ in DHP stands for DISCRETIONARY – which is why even specific government claims are nonsense and it is entirely up to local councils to pay to whosoever they see fit!
The private tenant almost always has a difference between the amount of HB or LHA they get and the rent charged – a shortfall in other words and this is being replicated to the social tenant with a wave of welfare reforms this year of which the bedroom tax is merely the first.
Bedroom Tax and DHPs
The starting point is the estimated 660,000 who have an average shortfall estimate at £14 per week – or about £10m per week from this magical £3m DHP pot that is already having to go towards the £10m per week council tax shortfall AND the bedroom tax affected social tenant has to compete with these others and of course are part of these others too.
The bedroom tax sees many ‘deserving’ groups competing with the average ‘undeserving’ bedroom tax tenant the notorious under occupier which is the ‘norm’ according to the government and I am talking about these scrounging tenants that the state subsidises to lounge around all day and have spare rooms paid for by the state in the already subsidised and privileged social housing.
In short the typical bedroom tax affected tenant – the typical BT case – is lazy, is a scrounger and is not deserving of money from the magical DHP pot when compared to others!!
For example the household with a severely disabled child is one competitor that has to tell their council how much they spend on Sky TV and even 3 in 1 oil to lubricate the wheelchair and all other expenditure in order to compete for money from the magical DHP pot.
Hang on Joe aren’t families with severely disabled children exempt? No they are not. Each council can choose to exempt them or they can choose not to exempt them.
Then the typical BT tenant is competing with foster carers for DHP money. Now come off it Joe we all know foster carers are exempt and I am just not having that argument!
No you are wrong and of course again not your fault as the government overtly misleads with its highly spun announcements. An existing foster carer is exempt for ONE spare bedroom is they are an approved foster carer.
Yet many foster carers who need a separate bedroom for each foster child have two spare rooms and so some of the estimated 5000 foster carers in social housing will need to go the begging bowl that is the DHP pot. Aside from starting from a more ‘deserving’ footing than the typical bedroom tax tenant, such existing foster carers and all prospective new ones will receive DHP money first as they are perceived as a priority deserving group by local councils for one obvious reason.
They will cost social services – another part of the same council deciding who gets a DHP – more from existing finite social service budgets if they don’t get a DHP. That’s not a cynical comment in any way merely a statement of fact.
So who else will cost the councils more from councils other budgets if they don’t get a DHP? You have every other case of disabled children and disabled adult that currently has a care plan or if receiving any level of social care funding – the families with children not considered disabled enough to qualify for the ‘severely’ disabled tag!
I even find typing the words bloody offensive that councils have to decide the severity of a child’s disability before giving them charity from this begging bowl. Why can’t we just call them handicapped and be done with it reader as they are going cap in hand aren’t they under this deeply fucking offensive policy!
[And in writing that it gives me the title of this article which I know is bloody offensive yet that is the point!!! The term ‘handicapped’ derives from cap in hand, that is begging and you see why it is so bloody offensive!!]
Ok I will stop on the bedroom tax there as you get the main points. What about the rest of the welfare reforms to come in this year? There’s plenty to choose but let’s just stick to the overall benefit cap.
The overall benefit cap DHP claimant
This is the policy of cutting overall benefits by limiting them to a capped figure of £500 pw for families and £350 pw for a single person. Yes that’s a lot of money you may think surely the typical bedroom tax social tenant is a more deserving case than these scroungers getting huge amount of benefits many will think!
This morality thinking is of no consequence at all in deciding who gets a DHP and just like the typical bedroom tax affected tenant the overall benefit cap (OBC) has been imposed in the same way as the bedroom tax has.
The first DWP estimates suggested the OBC would hit 56,000 families which is much less than the 660,000 bedroom tax hit families yet the OBC families take an average hit of £93 per week!! That is a further £5.2m per week to come out this magic DHP pot of £3m per week! Yet the revised estimate put this at 171,000 families or £16m per week! Is the government throwing Jack’s magic beans in there to create a beanstalk do you think?
So we see the OBC have much fewer cases but the average cut is 6 – 7 times higher and we can see this in a simple statement:- The bedroom tax MAY directly cause a LOW level of homelessness yet the OBC WILL directly GUARANTEE a HIGH level of homelessness.
Homelessness and evictions cause a direct cost to local councils….yes the same people administering the DHP pot and charity begging bowl! So to avoid higher costs to the council and to prevent the horrors or being made homeless – and yes that is in the priority a council typically sees things – the DHPs will be used to prevent homelessness first.
Let me put this in a nutshell. Once the overall benefit cap comes into existence in July this year no bedroom tax affected tenant has a cat in hells chance of getting a penny from it!
The only caveat to that is where not paying the DHP due to the bedroom tax shortfall will cost other council departments more money from existing budgets such as the foster carers second bedroom and those scandalously deemed not severely disabled enough.
£10m per week for council tax
£33m per week for private tenant LHA
£10m per week for bedroom tax
£16m per week for overall benefit cap
That’s roughly £60m per week (not including disabled children and foster carers) from this magical £3m per week DHP pot.
Hey tenant you think you will be one of the 1 in 20 that gets anything or one of 19 in 20 that hasn’t got a cat in hells chance?