8th June, 2013
DWP has just issued a HB circular which provides a breakdown, council by council, of how much of a DWP allocation has been made, and secondly, how much the budget can be increased to with your local council’s support.
If you examine Annexe A you’ll see the “Government Funding” column showing how much has been allocated, and next to it, the amount your council can truly spend if it chooses to invest its own funds into the scheme. Many of the larger city councils have raised their budgets to the upper ceiling whereas, many others, especially the smaller councils have added little or nothing to the DWP pot.
A further £20M has been allocated in 2013/14 but how this will be utilised is still to be determined. Councils are awaiting guidance from the DWP on how they can make bids and the key criteria that will be used to determine whether a further allocation will be provided.
Each council will operate the scheme differently because of the scheme’s discretionary nature and limited budget. In the past, many councils failed to spend their DWP allocation and had their slice of the cake reduced the following year. There’s every chance this will happen again despite the DWP urging councils to use their allocation to cover costs created by the Bedroom Tax, Benefits Cap and the 2011 changes to PRS Local Housing allowance. We could also experience a hesitancy to spend the budget initially due to the fear of insatiable demands from both social and private landlords and potenatial overspending early in the finacial year. Again, this has happened in the past, sometimes causing a late spurge in spendng before year end. Not an ideal situation and something councils should be trying to avoid.
I’ve attached a draft DHP leaflet which might help you convey the key points to staff and your tenants.
Quite separate to all of this, councils throughout the UK received relatively large allocations of money arising from the abolition of the Discretionary Social Fund to support elderly/disabled people remain in their homes rather than being taken into residential care. Part of the transfer of funds is also designed to meet short term needs created by emergency or crisis situations (e.g. fire, flood, criminal damage to uninsured household good; financial assistance due to unexpected expenses, loss of money, benefit misuse by partner; childcare requirements). Again the fund provides discretion to councils on how this can be spent. The fund was due to start in April 2013 but some councils have struggled with set-up and administration creating likelihood of major underspends. The budget is generally speaking 5 to 10 times more than the DHP equivalent. If you haven’t already checked this out, you’ll invariably find the pot (welfare fund/emergency??) is being administered by the same team that administers Housing Benefit or the finance/exchequer services section.
In Scotland, the money, some £25M+ was immediately ring fenced and supplemented by £9M by the Scottish Parliament. It’s called the Scottish Welfare fund.
In England/Wales the allocation was left to councils themselves. Wherever you are in the UK you should be trying to find out from your councils how exactly these funds are being administered. Once you know that you’ll be able to examine the criteria; how to claim; how you can support your tenants to secure payment etc.
If you’re unsure who to contact, drop a letter or e-mail to the Chief Executive or Director of Finance as they will know where the money lies. If you need any further information on this topic or any other welfare reform issue please write to me firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me on 07733 080 389. If you’d like to find out more about our website www.ucadvice.co.uk and the various services we offer please do not hesitate to get in touch.