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Housing Benefit exceptional hardship payments

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DatePublished - 1999
PublisherCorporate Document Services
Place of PublicationLeeds
VolumeNo. 91
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameDepartment of Social Security Research Report

Abstract

Local authorities have a range of discretionary powers which can be used in the administration of Housing Benefit. These include the power to make exceptional hardship payments to claimants whose Housing Benefit is less than their rent because of regulations introduced since 1996. These regulations incorporated the local reference rent and the single room rent into Housing Benefit calculations. This study evaluates local authorities use of exceptional hardship payments. Findings are based on telephone interviews with Housing Benefit managers.
The main findings are:

Nearly a third of the authorities in the survey (90) spent less than ten per cent of their government allocation in 1997/98. A small number of authorities reported spending nothing.
Most local authorities had to deal with very few applications for exceptional hardship payments in 1997/98. One in four authorities had less than one application per month, a few authorities reported receiving no applications at all in the year.
The most common reasons for applying for a payment included inability to afford their rent, existence of a medical condition, inability to pay bills, need extra room for children to stay and need to escape domestic violence.
Local authorities had a range of approaches for dealing with applications. Some used DSS guidance, others developed their own guidance based on their own policies, while others used their own policies alongside DSS guidance. Some instead judged applications on a case-by-case basis.
Overall, the success rate for applications was 43 per cent. The mean number of payments in these authorities in 1997/98 was 38 within a range of between one and 664. One in five authorities were making some relatively high weekly payments, in excess of 50 pounds, and a small number had made payments of over £100 per week. However, almost all authorities reported "average" weekly payments of 30pounds or less.
People whose circumstances are related in some way to their health (disabled people, those with mental health problems, or pregnant women) are the most successful types of claimant. However, the most numerous beneficiaries of exceptional hardship payments were lone parents.

    Research areas

  • employment/benefits, social exclusion, income, poverty

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