DHP – Dubious Hoodwinking Practices or how IDS pulled the woolsack over the courts eyes!

Did you know that in the first year of the bedroom tax the government allocated £55m for bedroom tax DHP yet local councils spent £81m?

Probably not as the coalition is fond of telling us that DHPs were not fully spent.  Quite an achievement (ie lie) for DWP when their own figures reveal these facts.

Did you know that £30m of the total DHP awarded to local councils was NOT spent on welfare reforms?

Me neither and that suggests local councils have swiped £30m away from vulnerable people too doesn’t it?  To make that point worse it appears that DWP are not investigating LAs any further on this point which if correct as it appears to be then what is to stop local councils swiping all of the DHP allocation to use for libraries or roads or even for junkets for councillors?

Oh I see that’s what we call Localism – local people know local needs best say the government in their usual superficial spin.  It sounds so plausible yet scratch under the surface and we see that £30m of the £160m allocated was used for other non welfare reform purposes.

What about the coalition’s constant refrain that DHP monies were returned?

Yes IDS and Freud make great play of that one don’t they reader?  Yet look at the figures (below) and we see that local councils who were given £160m in DHP actually spent £162.6m!!  Yes they spent more than 100% of what was allocated to them – although this includes the £30m (£29.765m) they siphoned off for other purposes.

In the myth, hyperbole, sophistry and political spin which surrounds the bedroom tax Discretionary Housing Payments are very high up that bullshit list.

Time for some more serious comment than the very easy exposure of the coalition lies over welfare reform which has become so common to be passe and hardly shocking to the reader who has become inured to this constant deliberate charade of lies, deceit and dissembling from the coalition over welfare reform.  Yet what I find most shocking of all is how IDS and DWP hoodwinked the courts, the very senior courts with the arguments that the discrimination that the bedroom tax was found to be against disabled households was justifiable because of DHP.

One of the biggest charades in the bedroom tax is the consideration of discretionary housing payments or DHPs to allegedly mitigate the policy and it’s found actual discrimination against tenants with a disability in the judicial review case of MA & Ors in both the High Court and Court of Appeal.

I have always had an issue with DHPs which I could easily and correctly state as they are an ingenious device for the coalition to have used, however unintended or unwittingly.  To persuade two of the senior courts that DHP does mitigate the bedroom tax and in doing so justifies the clear discrimination to those with a disability is bloody clever and especially when they do not.

My view goes even further than that and holds that DHPs cannot mitigate the bedroom tax policy or the discrimination even in theory and below I outline that view with some factual and actual supporting evidence which has not and could not have been under consideration by the Court of Appeal.

You can deduce from all of the above that I am very strongly of the view the Court of Appeal’s view on the mitigation and justification DHP bring is wrong.  Who am I to tell the very learned minds of the Court of Appeal that they have been hoodwinked you may ask?  Fair point and one that could infer I am a conceited prig yet it is what the reality of the now available data on DHP payments for bedroom tax purposes reveals.

I have previously released data on what percentage chance a bedroom tax affected household has in theory of getting a DHP for bedroom tax here which merely suggests that chance by how much of the DHP total each LA was allocated for bedroom tax purposes is in relation to the actual bedroom tax amount of cut in each LA.  At the two extremes this gave a social housing tenant a 6% or so chance in Copeland yet the same tenant in LB Westminster had a 169% chance, at least in theory.  That also reveals a massive flaw in the allocation of DHP funds from central to local government.  Yet with the actual data we see that local government allocated DHP as they wished and not in the way DWP intended and not in the way DWP contended to the courts.

At the end of this argument is a table which reveals what percentage of the overall DHP amounts they received each LA actually spent on DHP for bedroom tax affected tenants or put simply the actual rather than the theoretically projected.

One stark issue is that while the social tenant in LB Westminster had a 169% chance of a bedroom tax DHP in theory and the highest chance in any LA, the reality is LB Westminster spent the lowest percentage of its DHP total funding on the bedroom tax tenant at just 1.72%.

In other words the theory behind the percentage chance of receiving a bedroom tax DHP which is the same theory or legal argument the DWP has relied on in the senior courts is a load of tosh and cannot in any way be relied upon and especially as a legal principle.

By virtue of huge discrepancies between the intended purposes of the DHP allocation the DWP relies on in the courts to what has actually happened in practice reveals the many flaws in the legal argument that a DHP mitigates the discrimination the bedroom tax has been found to hold to disabled tenants.  Even in theory this DWP legal argument cannot hold and in practice it is shown to be a huge false proposition in law.

In June this year and largely unnoticed the DWP published the actual DHP expenditure breakdown by each local authority and also for once admitted the truth rather than the frequent abject sophistry (ie deliberate known lies) they issue to the media whenever the bedroom tax is questioned.  The latest classic example of that was in a report on the BBC website yesterday that a disabled couple who have to sleep apart on medical grounds and require a bedroom each won a bedroom tax appeal which the Tribunal ruled allows them a bedroom each in this policy which its crudeness denies.  The BBC reported:

The DWP said it had made £345m of payments available to councils to help the most vulnerable cases and money was specifically earmarked for disabled people living in specially-adapted accommodation.

The (anonymous) DWP spokesperson saying that the government has put in £345m to mitigate the bedroom tax when that is simply untrue.  It is correct to say the DWP has provided £345m in total DHPs on two years yet of this financial year’s allocation of £165m just £60m or 30.5% has been allocated for bedroom tax DHP and last year it was even lower than this. In total and in two years the DWP has allocated just over £100m and the claims they issue repeatedly to the press when confronted on bedroom tax matters is a deliberate conflation and a deliberate and known lie to use a figure more than three times the actual figure at £345m.

The DWP report from June included this table:

dhp201314

What this table demonstrates is that in 2013/14 the first year of the bedroom tax DWP allocated £55 million of the total £180 million DHP for bedroom tax.  The same official DWP document says it has allocated £60m of this year’s total £165m DHP for bedroom tax purposes making a two year total of £115 or one-third of the £345m the DWP regularly uses with deliberate conflation and falsehood in all news releases on the bedroom tax policy.

Yet the real information in this official document is it reveals how much each LA actually spent on bedroom tax DHP in 2013/14 and of course the DWP heading is not bedroom tax but RSRS which is their titling of Removal Spare Room Subsidy or as we all including dictionaries now include as ‘bedroom tax.’

I have deliberately included paragraph 9 which follows the above table because it says something very critical to the argument of DHP as legal justification for disability discrimination to wit

Whilst amounts were notionally allocated for each reform measure, LAs received a single allocation and had discretion about how the funding was used.

To argue in court and have accepted by the court that DHP was a justification must be premised on the basis that LAs WILL spend their DHP in some form of broad comparison to how it was allocated.  All LAs have the discretion to pay DHP for bedroom tax purposes anywhere between 0% and 250% of the allocation.  LAs could choose to spend none of the DHP allocated on bedroom tax, that is 0%; or they were allowed to supplement the DHP allocation by £1.50 for every £1 they received, or 250%.  The sheer scale of this local discretion means a DHP is not a national policy but a local one and that is the cleverness / hoodwinking the court the DWP has employed.

An entirely discretionary and an entirely discretionary LOCAL policy cannot be a legal justification even in theory for a NATIONAL policy and this is where the DWP hoodwinked the Court of Appeal in my view.

It is a clever DWP defence to say we have provided the money and not our fault if local authorities chose not to use DHP as intended.  Yet it must be fundamentally flawed and wrong in law as even the DWP admit each LOCAL authority can spend nothing at all on a DHP to mitigate the bedroom tax and justify the legally found discrimination the policy has towards the disabled household.

This is where the projected versus actual figures for LB Westminster proves the point in stark terms. My previous post on the (theoretical) percentage chance of a bedroom tax DHP saw a 169% chance of that in LB Westminster.  Yet the actual amount spent (see alphabetical table below) on DHP for bedroom tax in LB Westminster was just 1.72%

The bedroom tax tenant in Westminster had the highest theoretical chance of receiving a DHP yet the reality and fact is that same tenant received the lowest actual percentage across the country.

The theory and the application of DHP as mitigation and legal justification for discrimination is a total nonsense and the High Court and Court of Appeal have been hoodwinked by the Secretary of State’s arguments and the proof of that Duff pudding is in the eating as the tables below demonstrate.

hat must hold despite the fact that the majority of LAs spent MORE on bedroom tax DHP than they were allocated.  All that proves is that DHP as mitigation and justification is another post code lottery and one that surely cannot lead to a legal conclusion of being justifiable such is the vagary and discrepancies the facts hold.

For example my home city of Liverpool spent 110% of its entire allocation on bedroom tax DHP yet that must mean it spent a lot less on Benefit Cap or any other welfare reform policy that DHP was allocated for. In essence a positive discrimination for the social tenant yet a negative one for the private tenant – that is still discrimination and not justifiable for the claimed DHP rationale that the Secretary of State has hoodwinked the courts over.

It also means that Liverpool MUST have added its own resources to the DHP allocation which is yet another of the clever deceits the Secretary of State has pulled over the eyes of the senior courts.  Many LAs had 10% of their entire funding cut in their 2013/14 allocation of all funding from central government and so the likelihood of any LA being able, and willing, to add anything to the DHP allocation was always a highly contentious idea and yet it appears not to have been considered by the senior courts too. Yet that additional point is very much minor to the actuality of how DHP were made or not to the bedroom tax tenant.

Nationally while £55m was allocated for bedroom tax DHP the actual spend was £81m or 50% higher than the DWP intended which can only suggest that LAs on average believed they needed 50% more than they actually received.

dhpspent

How to read the tables below.

The tables are in alphabetical order as the reader will want to know what their LA spent.  Some LA’s appear to have a 0% spend figure yet that is not the case.  All the 0% figure next to an LA’s name means is that LA did not provide the data to DWP although as you can see the vast majority did and my interpretation or other interpretation on what this data reveals must hold because it is a huge sample size.

As £55m of the total £180m DHP spend was intended for bedroom tax purposes this means each LA should have spent 30.55% of DHP on bedroom tax – the results as you can see are vastly different and vary dramatically.

Tables on Bedroom tax DHP actual spend by LA

dhpspend10f4dhpspend2of4

dhpspend3of4

dhpspend40f4

 

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10 thoughts on “DHP – Dubious Hoodwinking Practices or how IDS pulled the woolsack over the courts eyes!

  1. What do you suggest we do with all this information? Joe.
    Surely, it has to be challenged in some way.
    When it is affecting how a Judge makes a decision?
    We all know DHP’s are a ‘sticking plaster, over a gaping hole’.
    If a Judge is not in possession of the real facts and makes a Judgement, based on incorrect information.
    It’s definitely, discrimination.
    As if, the Disabled and those with mental health issues, do not have enough stress and distress already. Particularly when many councils are STILL using their DLA as income.
    And, being told they can afford to pay the BT from their DLA.
    And, on that basis. Most likely denied help from the DHP.

    I suspect, there are many in this situation, that we know nothing about.

  2. The bedroom tax is cruel and discriminating. The councils who use any DHP for anything other than what it is there for, are thieves and should be dealt with appropriately.
    I live in a private rented property and have been used to the “tax” that we have paid for a few years now, but I still think it’s unfair and discriminatory to me and others in the same position.
    I am lucky as I live in Scotland and even though the bedroom tax does not affect me, I know that all the people who are affected are not struggling as they do not pay it. If we become Independent the bedroom tax, and PIP are going to be dropped and that should be happening throughout the whole of the UK.

  3. I always thought JR’s were meant to be a more “overall” look at the facts. It seems as if the JR’s looked at the facts tied to the appellants (is that the correct name?), namely they received DHP’s which mitigated the losses and discrimination. Surely then what needs to be done is to have an appellant who does not get DHP and then to state the facts that DHP’s were not forthcoming, and were “discretionary” and therefore could not be relied on to mitigate, so therefore the discrimination was not justifiable.

    Also if I read Joe’s premise correctly, would there not now be a valid reason for further appeal or is that now no longer possible, so would require a new case to be started?

  4. Jo, dhp money is ring fenced and can only be used for making up HB shortfalls so you are barking up the wrong tree there. If this isn’t happening then the councils concerned will be in trouble. If it’s unspent then it goes back to DWP not trousered elsewhere. Also on a point of order DHPs don’t have to be spent on problems arising out of Welfare Reform , as you will know the fund existed prior to this odious government. Certainly some councils have been less generous than others but the clue is in the title – Discretionary. I agree that IDS Freud have stretched the coverage provided by DHPs beyond all reason.

    1. John, that is not strictly correct. Upon further investigation much of this near £30m appears – and I use that correctly as evidence is sketchy at best from the data – that much of this £30m has been used for deposit bonds.

      DHP guidance states that it can be used for the costs of downsizing and many other suggested purposes which are not the making up of HB shortfalls.

      The DWP say as one example of many that “4.
      A DHP can also be awarded to cover one-off housing costs, such as the cost of deposits, rent in advance, and moving belongings”

      DHPs are housing related payments and not necessarily housing BENEFIT only awards

  5. Hello Joe, on 4th August I sent you an e-mail seeking some advice on an appeal, are you able to give me any direction on this ? A simple carry on as outlined , or scrap it and start again will do. Many thanks and regards Alan, Bridgend against the bedroom tax, South Wales.

    ________________________________

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