Following the introduction of the so-called “bedroom tax” on 1st April this year, local councils have seen a surge in demand for discretionary housing payments (DHP) leaving housing associations struggling with the additional workload.
DHPs are temporary payments provided by councils in order to help cover costs when there is a change in the benefit system
So far the government has given £150 million in DHPs, and there is no signs of the demand for these payments slowing.
The result in the massive demand for DHPs has seen housing associations hiring extra staff and employing staff for additional hours in order to cope with the workload. Housing associations are advising tenants who have been affected by the bedroom tax on whether they could be eligible for DHPs and have been helping them with the application process.
Problems have arisen because individual councils’ policies on DHPs are different, which makes it extremely difficult for housing associations to advise tenants correctly.
Councils have been criticised for their response to DHP claims, with reports of tenants not being advised whether or not they will be awarded a DHP, and little information from local authorities on which tenants are being prioritised in the process.
Sue Ramsden, policy leader at the National Housing Federation, said: “The problems are inherent in the system – different councils will have different systems.” She added that some councils have yet to make any decisions on DHPs.