Extra Help With Housing Costs

Do you live in your own tenancy and get help towards your housing costs from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit? Does it still feel like a struggle sometimes to pay your rent? You may be entitled to more financial support.

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What is this all about?

The Scottish Government has asked Who Cares? Scotland to raise awareness of a benefit called Discretionary Housing Payments, to try and increase the number of Care Experienced people who receive these payments. We want to make sure everyone who may be entitled to apply for these payments knows about them.

What is it?

The term Discretionary Housing Payment is a bit of a mouthful, so we’ll call it a ‘DHP’ for short. A DHP is simply an additional payment given out by Local Authorities to help you with housing costs if you are on a low income.

Going back to 2019, The Scottish Government made a commitment during The Independent Care Review (before “The Promise” was even published), saying they would support Care Experienced people by “giving them greater choice in the housing options they have and more security in their tenancies”.  They followed this up in this year’s 2020-21 Scottish Government budget, with money put aside specifically to help Care Experienced people with these payments.    

Who can apply for a DHP?

There are certain ‘rules’ about who is eligible for a DHP. Each Local Authority may interpret these rules slightly differently, but in general:

  • You need to have a legal tenancy agreement (i.e. paying rent, not a mortgage)
  • There is no upper age limit.
  • You don’t have to be care experienced to apply (but the information we provide is aimed to support Care Experienced people)
  • You need to be getting either some Housing Costs within your Universal Credit payment, or Housing Benefit.
  • You need to explain the reason that you are struggling with housing costs (ie. why you need this extra payment)

What is a DHP for?

A DHP is usually temporary. It can be awarded as a one-off amount, or a regular payment for a while. It does not have to be paid back. It can help with:

  • rent and some service charges.
  • one-off costs such as a rent deposit, rent in advance, or costs of moving to a new tenancy.
  • rent shortfalls to prevent homelessness while alternative housing is explored.
  • making up the difference if housing benefit reduced because of the benefit cap or bedroom tax (spare room subsidy)

Can everyone paying rent get a DHP?

Sadly not. Getting a DHP depends on the judgement of your Local Authority Benefits team, which is why it is called “Discretionary”.  It should depend on your individual circumstances, so making a really strong case in your application will help. There are also some situations that are not eligible:

  • If your Universal Credit or Housing Benefit already covers the full cost of your rent.
  • To cover an increase in rent – because of arrears or because an overpayment is being recovered from Housing Benefit.
  • To cover a gap/shortfall due to Universal Credit Sanctions.
  • To cover a Council Tax bill.

How do I apply?

The first step is to put in an application to your Local Authority. Each Local Authority website will have all the information you need to make an application, which will be either an online application or a form to print off. Sometimes filling out a form can feel like a long and complicated process, but you don’t have to do this alone.

Where can I get help?

If you aren’t sure whether or not you could get a DHP, you can ask your local authority directly, or please just ask us, by speaking to:

You can also ask your Social Worker, Throughcare Worker, or Housing Officer if you have one. 

Where can I find out more?

You may see information from Who Cares? Scotland on social media about DHPs, or in our Members magazine Speak Out, or via email. We have also been training our staff, so that you can speak to your usual Who Cares worker for more information.

Your own Local Authority will have information on their website – just try Googling the name of your local Council together with the words “Discretionary Housing Payments” and the information should come straight up straight away.

Remember:

Not everyone can get a DHP, but if you are entitled it could really help with the financial pressures of your housing costs. Why not let us help you look into it?

With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities, funding partners and donors who make our work possible.