Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
London SWIH 9NA
30th January 2015
Discretionary Housing Payment funding for the London Borough of Southwark
I am writing to you about the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) funding provided by the DWP to the London Borough of Southwark, which includes my constituency.
DHP funds for the 2014-15 financial year were spent by the 31st December 2014 and I’m concerned that no additional funding has been forthcoming from the DWP. In October 2014, Southwark Council wrote to the DWP requesting additional DHP funding and was advised that a decision would be made shortly but to date no such decision has been communicated to the Council.
Southwark has high levels of deprivation and social housing, and the second largest number of tenants in London affected by the Bedroom Tax. 3,497 households in Southwark have been hit by the Bedroom Tax costing them each, on average £1,058 per year. So the Bedroom Tax is a big issue in Southwark.
I’m concerned that without additional DHP funding, Southwark Council will not be able to continue to protect people affected by the Bedroom Tax which will mean an increase in evictions from both council and private rented accommodation, and consequently homelessness.
Because of the Bedroom Tax many people on low incomes in Southwark are struggling to keep their heads above water, finding themselves in debt and rent arrears for the first time. A number of constituents have contacted me desperately concerned about their rent arrears after being told by the Council that DHP funds are no longer available.
For example, a single mother from Peckham lives with her severely disabled daughter in a 3 bedroom property specially adapted to meet the needs of her daughter who has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. When the Bedroom Tax was introduced, her housing benefit was reduced even though she needs the extra bedroom for an overnight carer. She applied for a DHP to cover the shortfall in rent, which was granted, and continued to receive payments until they were stopped at the end of September 2014. She re-applied for a DHP but the Council had to refuse her application because there were no funds left in the DHP budget. She is now in rent arrears of £150 and is anxious that this may lead to eviction proceedings.
While a number of local authorities, like Southwark, have exceeded their DHP allocation this year, others have not used significant proportions of their DHP funds. It’s unfair that the money to help people with their housing in Southwark has run out not because the Council has spent it unwisely but because of the high level of demand.
Please can you arrange for your officials to meet Southwark Council officials as soon as possible to discuss DHP funding arrangements for the remainder of this financial year, and make extra funds available for Southwark.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Harriet Harman MP and Tessa Jowell MP