Ask CPAG Online - When and how should you get a decision?

The law requires local authorities (LAs) to give written notice of a decision following an application for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) with reasons for the decision ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.1

Paragraph 3.14 of The DHP Guidance Manual and Good Practice Guide for LAs  advises LAs as follows:

‘If someone applies for a DHP, you must inform that person of the DHP decision in writing with reasons as soon as is reasonably practicable. You must be consistent and avoid unnecessary delay, bearing in mind an application for DHPs is often to deal with an immediate need.’

Paragraph 4.8 of the Good Practice Guide states:

‘Claimants normally have to arrange their finances quickly and so you could ensure that decisions on DHP applications are made within four weeks’.

This should probably be seen as the maximum time it should take to deal with an application, with more urgent applications (e.g. where you are threatened with eviction) being dealt with much more quickly.

The notification should include details of the reasons you are being awarded or refused a DHP, the amount of any award, the start and end dates, who you can contact for further help and advice, and what you can do if you disagree with the decision (see paragraph 4.10 of the Good Practice Guide).

You can be notified of a DHP decision in a housing benefit decision notice (e.g. where you have applied for both), but the notice should make it clear that an award of a DHP is not a payment of HB (see paragraph 4.9 of the Good Practice Guide).

There is no legal requirement for the LA to notify your landlord of the decision, but the LA could do so with your consent (paragraph 3.17 of the Guidance Manual). This may help to address their fears about accumulating rent arrears.

What can you do if there are delays?

If there are long delays in the LA dealing with your application and issuing a decision, you should contact the department responsible for DHPs to find out what is happening and, if necessary, make a complaint.

LAs are required to have a complaints procedure, and you get details of this from your LA. If the matter is not resolved, you can ask for a senior officer or your local councillor to intervene.

You can also complain about maladministration to the Local Government Ombudsman (see www.lgo.org.uk), although this is unlikely to result in a quick resolution. Your only legal recourse is Judicial Review, for which you will need legal advice (sometime the threat of Judicial Review results in your case being dealt with).