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Discretionary housing payments not being paid out

Several councils across the UK fail to spend millions earmarked by the government for poor families at risk of being made homeless.

Discretionary housing payments (DHPs) is a scheme developed so that people facing financial hardship already entitled to housing benefit or council tax benefit, but need further support in meeting the cost of housing can get additional payments. It turns out most claims are made by tenants living in private rented accommodation.

These payments are discretionary and need to be applied for. It seems many councils are not bringing this to the attention of those in need , though many claim to give the information on their local websites.

Citizens Advice said some councils were wary of the payments because they did not believe it was local government's role to "prop up" the benefits system. "We would rather there was a DHP system than there wasn't, but we would prefer that deficiencies in the mainstream housing benefit system were addressed at source,"

A governement representative said "Many landlords, particularly in the social rented sector, are not aware that this fund is available for tenants to claim, while their staff often aren't geared up to support tenants to make a DHP claim,".

In total Councils have failed to spend almost £1m earmarked for families at risk of homelessness. Figures show that nearly £1m of the £20m set aside to help families who could not afford rent or other housing costs in 2010-11 was left untouched by councils.

If you are on benefits and struggling to pay the rent because of change in circumstances or in LHA rates you may be entitled to apply for a discretionary payment. We advise anyone in such circumstances to apply to their local council


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