Thursday, 05 March 2015

Bedroom tax prompts surge in applications for discretionary housing payments

Councils swamped with demand for welfare fund

More councils across Britain are reporting a surge in demand for an emergency hardship fund following the introduction of the bedroom tax.

Inside Housing last Thursday revealed eight local authorities have experienced a sharp jump in the number of applications from claimants for discretionary housing payments since 1 April.

Now 15 more councils have also revealed increased applications for DHPs (see box).

Glasgow Council has received 5,501 DHP applications in April, compared to 1,437 in the same period last year. Liverpool Council received 1,265 applications in April compared with 138 in a typical month, while Sheffield Council received around 1,400, compared with an average of just 100 per month throughout the 2012/13 financial year. Of these 1,400, Sheffield Council has made 600 awards totalling £140,000. A spokesperson said: ‘Sheffield Council’s DHP grant for 2013-14 is £995,802.

‘We have estimated that Sheffield’s social housing tenants will see a total shortfall in housing benefit as a result of the bedroom tax of more than £4.5 million in 2013.’

Twelve other local authorities also reported increases: Spelthorne, Oxford, Harlow, Amber Valley, Suffolk Coastal, Maldon, Wycombe, Welwyn and Hatfield, Telford and Wrekin, Craven, Eastbourne and Derbyshire Dales councils. These 12 English councils reported combined DHP applications of 1,070 in April this year, compared with 252 in the same period last year.

DHPs are intended as a short-term measure to help people who are finding it difficult to cover their living costs due to welfare reforms. The government expanded the DHP pot from £60 million last year to £150 million for 2013/14, with £25 million earmarked for disabled people hit by the bedroom tax who have had their homes significantly adapted. Under the bedroom tax, social housing tenants of working age deemed to have spare rooms have their benefit cut.

Councils to report increased DHP applications since the introduction of the bedroom tax:

  • Amber Valley
  • Birmingham
  • Craven
  • Derbyshire Dales
  • Eastbourne
  • Glasgow
  • Harlow
  • Hull
  • Leeds 
  • Leicester
  • Liverpool
  • Maldon
  • Oxford
  • Sefton
  • Sheffield
  • Southampton
  • Southwark
  • Spelthorne
  • Suffolk Coastal
  • Telford & Wrekin
  • Waltham Forest
  • Welwyn & Hatfield
  • Wycombe

Readers' comments (27)

  • Melvin Bone


    Are there figures to indicate how many of these applications are spurious, ie the applicant is found to have more than enough money so refused, and how many applications are reasonable, ie the applicant is shown to be short of funds? I know that many DHP applications are refused not through lack of DHP funds but because the claimant either shows unreasonable expenditure or can even show that they have money spare for the rent but have applied because they might get something for nothing...

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  • Mr Bone should move into the "real world" faced daily by DHP claimants and their advisers. My home council North Tyneside had only enough money in 2011/12 for 107 "grants" - there are 16,000 tenancies. Typical of claims made with my help has been 40 years woman, diabetic with both legs amputated, home adapted to help her live as normal a life as possible but faced with a £25 bedroom tax - she "won". Another was a 55 year old unemployed single man on £67 JSA weekly asked to pay £20 in "bedroom tax" and council tax. Spurious ?

    Bill Lawrence Newcastle Trades Union Council Centre against Unemployment.

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  • Melvin Bone

    16,000 tenancies effected by the 'bedroom tax'? or 16,000 council tenancies or 16,000 tenancies for the whole area as I'm sure you know that DHP is available for private tenants as well who have been assessed on the number of bedrooms they need since the beginning of LHA when it was brought in under Labour.

    Do you propose the removal of the bedroom element of LHA as well Bill?

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  • Mr Bone should move into the "real world" - never a truer word said !

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  • BlokeWithAConscience

    Central Government seems happy to dump additional costs on Local Government in order to adjust their balance sheet which means that the gain to the nation is questionable particularly when you consider the increased medical costs caused by anxiety. Claimants would be well advised to check that they are claiming all benefits to which they are entitled by visiting the CAB and possibly they might find they are able to offset the effects of the Bedroom Tax. Good luck to all the claimants.

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  • Chris

    But if Melvin moved into the real world there would be so much less to discuss Don - we need those who are so blinkered and wrong to help us understand how enlightened and correct we are, as I know Melvin agrees for he has alluded to such in our many previous exchanges.

    Facts are though that this policy of aggrivated poverty, and restoration of Poor Law principles was always going to have these sorts of effects on the individuals concerned. The next stage will be the attempts of local communities to assist before the cost to those local communities becomes such a burden that the whole welfare philosophy of deserving and undeserving poor will peak with the realisation of the unsustainability of local poor relief. The restoration of national relief of poverty will be the logical way to clear up the mess, but currently there are no socially minded political parties in power, or likely to be in power to make such happen. The risk then is that either an extremist faction is given popular support on the back of such a threat to parliamentary democracy, or the people will move to take power themselves (and this in historical preceedent has always led to the imposition of an extremist faction!)

    The future may then be Orange, but definately far from bright.

    In that case, moving to Planet Bone may be the most preferrable option.

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  • Joe Halewood

    The real question which IH should investigate is whether each of the councils have put their own funding into the overall DHP pot.

    The government allow (and expect?) each LA to put in £5 for every £2 they have received from them in DHPs and indeed government limit this added amount to 2.5 times the amount they have given.

    Melvin - North Tyneside has 2202 affected by the bedroom tax according to official figures. So:

    (a) As they have been given the money for 107 then this is enough for 5%
    (b) the total DHPs are not just for bedroom tax and include a higher figure for benefit cap and also for other cases.
    (c) Extrapolated only about 16% of the DHP budget has been set aside for bedroom tax cases

    I covered this is a blog last month and an extract is:

    The detail of this can be found in the HB circular S1 of 2013 issued in January 2013. Paragraphs 2 and 3 provide the detailed breakdown although please note that £5m has been reduced from the bedroom tax amount after the changes to foster carers etc in March 2013. This also reduces the claimed overall saving figure above from £480m to £475m. This now reveals a total DHP figure of £150m for 2013/14 of which:

    £60m or 40% is for private tenants shortfall in Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
    £65m or 43% is for private and social tenant shortfalls from the overall benefit cap (56% are private tenants and 44% social), leaving
    £25m or 17% for social tenant shortfalls from the bedroom tax.

    The rest of the detail I post here

    It is highly erroneous to start from a position that the DHP budget is just for bedroom tax cases and the fact remains that 15 out of every 16 who apply will not get a DHP.

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  • Ah, and the playground bullies are out in force once again!

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  • Melvin Bone

    'It is highly erroneous to start from a position that the DHP budget is just for bedroom tax cases and the fact remains that 15 out of every 16 who apply will not get a DHP.'

    Many becuase they have plenty of income or excessive expenses...

    Joe. I'm not interested in your blog.

    Chris. I enjoy it when you extol the virtue of a policy that you know would cure all the countries ills but it seems odd that are never put into place. I wonder why that could be. But then you do believe in a lot of things that are fictional.


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  • Victor Singh

    "Mr Bone should move into the "real world" - never a truer word said !"

    Why on earth would Mr Bone or any of the Tory Cabinet be interested in the least by the real world? Dream on :)

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