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How to target your Discretionary Housing Payments well

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It's hard for local authorities to be sure that support is reaching the households that need help the most. We know that 9 in 10 applications for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) are successful, yet only 1 in 5 households that need a DHP apply. We help local authorities carry out a full needs assessment, as recommended by the DWP, using housing benefit data to create insights that will make council's DHP funds go further.

In this webinar we looked at levels of financial resilience and the need for Discretionary Housing Payments. We were joined by Ellie Kershaw, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, who spoke about how they spend DHP money in line with their local priorities and how they're raising awareness and increasing referrals from those in need.

View the slides to see how our LIFT Dashboard and Benefit and Budgeting Calculator helps LB Tower Hamlets to:

- ensure the consistency of help given by frontline staff
- reduce the time it takes staff to understand eligibility for a DHP
- evidence how well their DHP strategy is working

To find out more visit www.policyinpractice.co.uk, email hello@policyinpractice.co.uk or call 0330 088 9242

Published in: Data & Analytics
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How to target your Discretionary Housing Payments well

  1. 1. Policy in Practice Webinar How to target your Discretionary Housing Payments well Wednesday 23 October 2019
  2. 2. Housekeeping • Audio check • Please ask questions • Poll and a survey • Aim to finish by 11:30
  3. 3. Today’s speakers Zoe Charlesworth Head of Policy Policy in Practice Ellie Kershaw Tackling Poverty Programme Delivery Manager Tower Hamlets Council Louise Murphy Policy and Data Analyst Policy in Practice
  4. 4. Agenda • Background on discretionary housing payments and local authorities • Use of discretionary housing payments in Tower Hamlets • Poverty challenges and approaches to homelessness in Tower Hamlets • Tools used to identify vulnerability, target support and track change • Next steps
  5. 5. 555 Poll: How well do you target your Discretionary Housing Payment funding now?
  6. 6. 666 Over to Zoe
  7. 7. Background to DHP What is a Discretionary Housing Payment? The government (gov.uk): “The government has given councils funding to give DHPs to people who have been impacted by welfare reforms including: • the benefit cap • removal of the spare room subsidy in the social rented sector • changes to Local Housing Allowance rates, including the 4 year freeze” Guidance “appear to the local authority to require some further financial assistance in order to meet housing costs”
  8. 8. Regulatory overview Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001 (S.I.2001/1167) Amended by: • the Council Tax Benefit Abolition (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2013 (S.I. 2013/458) • the Universal Credit (Consequential, Supplementary, Incidental and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2013 (S.I. 2013/630) • The Universal Credit (Miscellaneous Amendments, Saving and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2018 (S.I. 2018/65)
  9. 9. Regulatory overview continued • Regulations give LAs very broad discretion on spending allocations • LAs have a duty to act fairly, reasonably and consistently • LAs can use their own funds to top up their Government contribution (150 per cent) • Once an authority’s overall cash limit is met, no additional DHPs can be awarded in that tax year. Going above this limit breaks the law • Any unspent DHP funding from the government contribution is returned to the DWP at the end of the financial year Different arrangements in Northern Ireland and Scotland
  10. 10. Characteristics of DHPs • Available to tenants who claim housing benefit or get the housing element of Universal Credit • Administered by the local authority (England and Wales) and non-repayable • Can be backdated to when UC or HB was awarded but not beyond regulation start date 2001 • Not included in the benefit cap or in the assessment of income for other benefits • Can be a one-off, eg to help pay a tenancy deposit or rent in advance for a new home, but only if the person is already getting housing benefit or UC housing support • No right to appeal but Judicial Review and Ombudsman may be relevant
  11. 11. Characteristics of DHPs continued • R v. Sandwell MBC, ex parte Hardy. Must have regard to the purpose of disability related benefits and whether the money from those benefits has been committed to other liabilities associated with disability • No provision for repayment of overpayment from ongoing benefit A DHP cannot cover: • A shortfall due to overpayment recovery • A shortfall due to a sanction
  12. 12. DHP limits How much ? Maximum amount for ongoing support is set out in regulation: • Up to an amount calculated in accordance with Schedule 4 of the UC regs. This determines the housing element of UC (BUT housing element is defined as after LHA/bedroom tax – differs from DHP guidance manual) • Up to maximum eligible rent (HB reg 12.1) excluding ineligible charges (12B (2)) but not excluding LHA/bedroom tax (12B (1)) • Note R v. LB Lambeth, ex parte Gargett which sets out that any HB already paid towards ‘housing costs’ must be deducted when calculating the amount • DHP can be used for backdated arrears if the person was eligible at the time of the arrears (LB Lambeth ex parte Gargett) • No maximum for one-off payment
  13. 13. Funding In 2019/20, the total DHP central government contribution for English and Welsh local authorities is £139.5 million DHP funding is allocated to LAs in respect of four funding streams: 1. Impact of the LHA 2. Impact of the bedroom tax 3. Impact of the benefit cap 4. Core funding based on overall HB expenditure These are arrived at based on caseload and estimated impact of these welfare reforms. Core funding is based on HB expenditure
  14. 14. Funding continued • Spending review 2019 provided £40M additional funding • BUT LHA gap to return to 30 percentile is £0.8bn (Shelter, 2019)
  15. 15. Funding continued “It was never the intention that the additional funding for DHPs would mitigate the full impact of reductions in housing benefit entitlement” Esther McVey, House of Commons debate, 2014 “The total amount represents six per cent of the total savings expected from the Housing Benefit reforms” National Audit Office, 2013 • 98% of DHP funding allocated to local authorities in England for 2017/18 was spent • 229 authorities spent less than their DHP allocation, with a total under-spend of around £8.6 million
  16. 16. Challenges to allocation Objectivity versus discretion (Guidance Manual) “A policy that is too rigid will effectively prevent you from exercising your discretion properly in individual cases. This could make some decisions vulnerable to challenge by judicial review” but “Decisions must be made in accordance with ordinary principles of good decision making i.e. administrative law. In particular, LAs have a duty to act fairly, reasonably and consistently”
  17. 17. Challenges to allocation continued Budgeting of payments Decision making should be consistent throughout the year (regulation) but Once an authority’s overall cash limit is met, no additional DHPs can be awarded in that tax year. Going above this limit breaks the law
  18. 18. Allocation concerns Work and Pensions Committee (2018) had some concerns about allocation of DHPs : • “postcode lottery” • variation in local authorities’ priorities • some LAs are placing conditions on payments Other concerns voiced by local authorities: • Differences in applications between groups • Data needed to provide proactive outreach
  19. 19. Allocation
  20. 20. Allocation
  21. 21. Key considerations Consistency and also flexibility Ensuring decisions are the same throughout the year Ensuring all DHP is spent by year end Fairness in allocation • Identifying • Targeting • Supporting • Tracking
  22. 22. 222222 Over to Ellie
  23. 23. Use of discretionary housing payments in Tower Hamlets Ellie Kershaw Tackling Poverty Programme Delivery Manager
  24. 24. Poverty in Tower Hamlets 48,000 households living in poverty in Tower Hamlets of the borough’s older residents living in income deprived households, the highest rate of pensioner poverty in England. 50% of children in the borough living in families below the poverty line according to the HMRC. 31% of all working age residents receiving ‘out of work’ benefits get ESA, 11,950 residents 62% of Bangladeshi households claim Council Tax reduction compared to an average of 33% for other households78% in2 5
  25. 25. Key Poverty Challenges in Tower Hamlets COST OF LIVING IN-WORK POVERTY 45% of working-age Housing Benefit claimants are now in work, compared to just 21% in 2009. 60% of Tax Credit families are in employment. Low wage growth and high inflation has created significant pressure on low income households. For example in TH, whilst 19% of households are considered to live in poverty before housing costs, this number rises to 39% after housing costs. WELFARE REFORM Already reduced available support to working-age claimants significantly . Further welfare reforms likely especially roll-out of Full Service Universal Credit, reduces non-wage income risking a rise in poverty. IFS predicts increasing poverty up to the 2020/21.
  26. 26. 26 26  12,860 households currently claiming UC, (as at May 2019)  Final postcode went live in October  765 Tower Hamlets Homes residents in receipt of UC with an arrears balance of £891,785  120 homeless households in temporary accommodation on UC with a total arears balance of £420,000 Universal Credit
  27. 27. DHP budget Year Annual Fund 2017/2018 £1,812,716 2018/2019 £1,598,822 2019/2012 £1,714963
  28. 28. Homelessness approaches Year Approaches 2016/17 748 2017/18 587 2018/19 2483 2019/20 YTD 2201
  29. 29. Prevention of homelessness Local DHP policy has been refined over the years and assessment is based on 2 main principles: 1. Alleviation or avoidance of hardship 2. Prevention of homelessness Considerations will include looking at: • The cause of the problem • How the problem can best be avoided/alleviated • Will the provision of support lead to a sustainable tenancy?
  30. 30. Issues • Ensuring consistency of decision making without fettering discretion • Working with applicants and third parties to promote the aims of the scheme and to ensure they are met • Working flexibly to deal with competing and changing needs within a fixed annual budget • How to support private tenants • Difficult to report on how funding has been utilised and the outcomes
  31. 31. Next steps • Proactive identification of customers through the dashboard • Use of DHP module • Ensuring use of calculator in applications • Measuring impact
  32. 32. 323232 Poll: How do you award DHPs?
  33. 33. 333333 Over to Louise
  34. 34. Identify households most in need
  35. 35. Calculate if DHP criteria are met
  36. 36. Engage through tailored support
  37. 37. Track DHP spending
  38. 38. Track effectiveness of DHPs
  39. 39. 393939www.policyinpractice.co.uk Questions and answers
  40. 40. Next steps • Download Universal Credit Roadmap • Download LIFT Dashboard flyer • Download Benefit and Budgeting Calculator flyer Follow up email with this recording and slides, with links Short 5 question survey now: 1. We value your feedback 2. Ask questions or clarifications 3. Request your own look at the software shown 4. Auto sign up to our next webinar: Designing effective data-led intervention campaigns on Wed 13 November at 10:30 with Haringey Council and Luton Council
  41. 41. 41
  42. 42. www.policyinpractice.co.uk Thank you Zoe Charlesworth zoe@policyinpractice.co.uk Ellie Kershaw Tower Hamlets Council Louise Murphy louise@policyinpractice.co.uk hello@policyinpractice.co.uk office 0330 088 9242

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