Emergency fund for hard-up Brits on Universal Credit slashed by £40m – how to claim

A POT of cash for helping hard-up Brits in a housing emergency has been slashed by millions of pounds.

The cut to funding for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) comes as millions face a cost of living crisis.

The cash is handed out by local councils to those struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

It's available to those getting benefits for housing in England and Wales, including Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit. 

Total funding for the scheme from central government last year was £140million but from April that will drop to £100million for the year ahead -£40m less.

The cash is designed to help renters who are facing a shortfall or need help with a deposit.

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It's also for help with housing costs for those affected by the benefit cap, bedroom tax or local housing authority rates.

The average amount being dished out is £527 recent figures show, but the amount can be more or less depending on circumstances, with some getting as much as £4,500.

As it's discretionary, there's no set amount and it's decided on a case by case basis, according to needs and how much cash they have to give out.

You need to apply through your local council for Discretionary Housing Payment and you can find your local council by searching your postcode here.

Local councils can also top up the funding they get from the government so they have more to hand out.

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Each area gets the money according to their size and need, for example Barnet residents have access to £1.4million of help from the government, whereas in Tunbridge Wells it's £126,000.

A Government spokesperson said: “This Government is working across the country to help people with their housing needs, and is spending over £2bn to tackle and prevent homelessness and rough sleeping over the next three years.

“The change in Discretionary Housing Payment funding also reflects the rise in Local Housing Allowance brought in at the start of the pandemic, which we are maintaining, and government spending on housing support remains higher than pre-Covid levels.”

Who is eligible for Discretionary Housing Payment and when can I get it?

You may be able to get Discretionary Housing Payment in the if you are entitled to Housing Benefit, or the housing element of Universal Credit.

There's a similar scheme of the same name in Scotland which can also provide support for housing costs, but with different eligibility criteria.

If the benefits you're currently getting still don't cover the cost of your housing then you may be eligible.

The payment is discretionary, which means that the financial support given out is decided on case by case basis.

DHP may be given in the following circumstances, but there are other circumstances where you could get it too, so check with your local council if you're struggling with rent costs.

  • You've been affected by the benefit cap, bedroom tax or local housing allowance rate changes
  • Your housing benefit is not enough to cover your rent
  • You're moving home and need a rent deposit or rent advance, or help with moving costs

If your benefits are reduced because of an overpayment and that means you can't pay all or some of your rent, unfortunately you won't be able to get DHP.

There is other help available though, and you can see more on what's available below

You can't get a DHP to cover a rent shortfall if your benefits have been reduced because of an overpayment.

You also can't get DHP to cover council tax or service charges.

If you're not eligible for DHP there maybe other cash you can get from you council though other funds, like welfare assistance schemes and the Household Support Fund.

How much is Discretionary Housing Payment and how is it paid?

If you are eligible and the council gives you Discretionary Housing Payment, how much you get will depend on where you are and your needs.

There is no fixed amount for DHP and what you get may cover only some of your housing costs, not all of it.

There is also no fixed way of getting the payment – you may get it paid as a one-off lump sum, or as a regular payment, for example monthly.

The payment may be ongoing or have an end date – if you're claiming it then it's worth checking when it will finish

If you still need help after the support ends, you can apply for the payment again, although there's no guarantee of getting it or that it will be the same amount if you do.

There's no limit on the amount of times you can apply for the payment.

But, each council only has a certain amount of money that can be spent on DHP each year.

Once a council uses up all the funding that's it, and it may have to turn down applications if there is no more cash left.

If you apply for DHP and are turned down you can ask the council to reconsider.

You can also apply again after being turned down if your circumstances have changed.

Equally, if you get the payment and your circumstances change you'll also need to let the council know as it could affect your entitlement to the money.

The payment you get could to you directly, or be paid straight to your landlord

You may also be able to get the payment backdated.

How can I claim Discretionary Housing Payment?

You need to apply through your local council for Discretionary Housing Payment.

You can find your local council by searching your postcode here.

Benefits charity Turn2Us has shared the following tip for finding your local council's DHP support too, as it can sometimes be hard to find.

Search online using the name of your local council and Discretionary Housing Payment in quote marks, for instance: "Birmingham City Council Discretionary Housing Payment"

Some councils may also call DHP by a different name, for example Islington Council has a Resident Support Scheme. 

How you apply can vary, for example it may be a form to fill in online or on paper, and your local council should provide instructions.

You'll need to give information about your circumstances, such as your income and benefits you get, along with proof of this through payslips and evidence of your rent costs.

What other help can I get paying rent?

In the first instance if you can’t pay your rent, speak to your landlord as soon as possible.

They might give you more time to pay, or shrink your rent while you get back on your feet.

You should check you're getting all the money you're entitled to through benefits too.

You can check by using an online benefits calculator, which are offered by charities such as Turn2Us and EntitledTo.

You might be entitled to a reduction in council tax which could help reduce your bill and make your rent payments. 

The scheme could reduce your bill by as much as 100%, but it depends on your personal circumstances such as where you live and whether you have children living with you.

Each council runs its own scheme, so the details vary by area – contact your local council for more information.

You can find your local council by searching your postcode here.

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