You won’t get a DHP for benefit cap in at least one major council in Scotland and boy oh boy is the proverbial going to hit the fan with homelessness north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Today I read in Scottish Housing News a very interesting post from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Scotland which gives a quote from a Scottish LA in writing to a benefit-capped tenant who had sought a DHP:
“due to funding constraints within our discretionary housing payment budget and the increased number of cases, we are not in a position to award discretionary housing payments for cases affected by the benefit cap.”
Every local authority while largely free to operate its own way of using DHPs for a variety of issues and practice differs from one LA to the next, HAS to operate them in exactly the same way to everyone in their local authority area.
So when a council says to one DHP applicant that we have no money for a benefit cap DHP they have to say that and practice that to EVERY benefit-capped household who applies for a DHP.
In short, no tenant in this Scottish local council area will get a DHP for the benefit cap!
Let’s return to this CPAG authored blog to see what the impact of the benefit cap is and we find:
The parent was already subject to the higher benefit cap, receiving a discretionary housing payment, but still having, and struggling, to pay £120 a month from income support and child tax credit towards her £900 a month rent. The lower benefit cap limit means she will now be required to pay £172 a week! To be able to work the client would require childcare for her four children, including someone who is specially trained to look after the child who is disabled.
Announcing the lower cap, the DWP assured: “to support those affected by the benefit cap, over £1 billion of discretionary housing payments will have been provided to local authorities by the end of this parliament.”
However when one client applied for a discretionary housing payment after their housing benefit was reduced by £33 a week, the response stated:
This is where the above quote of no DHP for benefit cap comes in … and note the figures in the first part of this. We see a tenant now has a £172 per week cut as the benefit cap level has reduced by £116 per week in Scotland which means she was capped £56 per week before the cap was reduced (£172 – £116).
We also are told she previously received a DHP yet still had to pay £120 per MONTH which is £28 per week and so we see the previous benefit cap DHP being £28 per week also – the DHP was for half of the shortfall paying £28 per week for the £56 per week shortfall.
Yet now with the tenant being hit by a further £116 per week deduction the council has no money to even continue with the £28 per week DHP it paid before and the tenant has to find …£172 PER WEEK out of her benefit to pay the rent which is almost £750 per month and yet the council says it cannot give her anything in DHP to mitigate … and as explained cannot give anyone in the local authority area a benefit cap DHP.
This £172 per week shortfall will mean very shortly the tenant will be evicted and the council will have to put her and her 4 children, one of whom is disabled into extremely costly temporary homeless accommodation.
Every benefit-capped household in this Scottish local authority area will be in a similar position of no DHP as the council have to operate the DHP scheme in the same way for EVERY citizen.
I now turn to a bit of a Twitter spat I had yesterday with a Chief Executive of a Scottish housing association which came about after I said that social landlords would be refusing to accommodate new benefit tenants because of the benefit cap impact on affordability.
His response to my saying that socials landlords would be saying NO DSS to new / prospective tenants was “shocking IF true…” to which I responded with a direct question of will your HA allocate the 3 bed property to the couple with 3 children knowing they only get £50 per week in housing benefit. His response which I emphasise in red above was yes and stating the usual platitudes of working with tenants and the ‘its what we do’ position yet says and of course there is DHP …
I then question his presumption that DHPs would be available … which today’s CPAG article of NO DHP for benefit cap cases proves to be a very valid argument that I foresaw yet the HA CEO clearly did not.
I use the above facts as illustrative (not personal) and illustrative of the nationwide blase position that many social landlords are taking over the availability of discretionary housing payments that I stated in my NO DSS for social landlords blog using figures from Liverpool to illustrate that the council could not meet HP demand.
It is also illustrative of the massive ill-preparedness of social landlords and lack of consideration they have given to this issue.
It is also illustrative of the how dare you say Joe we will not house those in need it is what we do immediate defensive response from social landlords to my very valid arguments that the benefit cap reduction is the end of social housing as it forces social landlords to allocate to the 385,000 new tenants they have in England alone each year … on the basis of tenant affordability to pay the rent and NOT on their housing need!
I could launch into a well deserved attack on housing sector individuals and pithy puerile tweets they made all seeking to attack me as messenger for having the temerity to say SOCIAL landlords will refuse the benefit tenant, the NO DSS argument and indeed to all those equally puerile and deluded housing people who retweeted this attempt to deflect away from their refusal to see the bloody obvious – a bloody obvious now made so much worse with the no DHP position.
I will spare the reader that and simply say if it continues I will come back with both barrels and a thousand more in reserve and name and shame and highlight your delusion and ignorance as I always do with fact. In short if you give it out be prepared to take it so bring it on.
To return to THE most important matter, the tenant in Scotland and the no DHP position. The rent levels quoted means the unnamed council that will not be paying any benefit cap DHP can only be Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen that happen to be the three greatest benefit capped areas in Scotland.
That can only mean a huge increase in evictions and homeless presentations and that social landlords (as well as private landlords obviously) will be refusing more and more new tenants each and every year.
The no DHP availability means that my posit of social landlords refusing to accommodate the benefit tenant will only get much much worse in Scotland and what for me was an inevitability anyway becomes the racing certainty of racing certainties with the no benefit cap DHP position!
To all of the chief officers of social landlords in Scotland who are now proposing inflation-busting rent increases for the upcoming 2016/17 financial year you will need to think again and re-evaluate that and many other policies in light of the benefit cap reduction and the no DHP policy in one Scottish LA which may well spread to the other 31 given this one known example and given the existing DHP must cover all bedroom tax position.
That 100% mitigation of the bedroom tax with DHP and then topped up by the Scottish Government now appears to be working against all local councils who now do not have any DHP funding for the benefit cap, which guarantees arrears evictions due to being at least 3 and possibly 5 times the HB cut per household of the bedroom tax and which across Scotland will equate if not be slightly more in HB cut than the bedroom tax.
The CPAG authored article above mentions that the Scottish Government believe just 4,000 households will be affected there by the benefit cap (the pre reduction figure was 800) and that is a risible estimate. I maintain Scotland will have between 9,700 and 11,900 households affected which equates to around 40,000 children at acute risk of eviction and homelessness which is made much more acute in the absence of DHP.
It really is time for the benefit cap and its impacts to be taken seriously across the UK and especially in Scotland by the same idiots in housing and housing and other lobbies and of course all political parties who have to date failed to see what a dangerous and hugely costly policy this is.