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Spare Room Subsidy Funding Clawback

Jim Barrington made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

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Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

From 1 April 2013, under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the government removed what it called the spare room subsidy (also commonly known as the Bedroom Tax). Under the changes, tenants in social housing have seen their housing benefit reduced by 14% if they have a spare bedroom or 25% if they have two or more.

The Government provided funding to local authorities which was termed Discretionary Housing Payments. This was supposed to provide a safety net in order to prevent evictions and arrears for tenants in need, but was awarded at the discretion of local housing officers. However, there are indications not all of the money was allocated to applicants, despite the local authority stating there was higher demand than funds available. As a result, it has been reported the funds which had not been awarded were taken back by the Government Treasury and the following year funding was capped to the amount which had been spent.

Please advise if this funding was ring fenced solely to be used for discretionary housing payments and if not what proportion was allocated for this purpose.

Please provide me with:
1) Annual amounts of funding received from Government for Discretionary Housing Payments for each year from 2012 - 2017.
2) How much was the total applied for by tenants each year from 2012 - 2017 for discretionary Housing Payments to help with their housing costs.
3) Annual amounts paid to tenants as discretionary housing payments to help with their housing costs.
4) Annual amounts not spent/awarded on discretionary housing payments from the funds available. Please state why funds were held back or not allocated.
5) How much was repaid or has been requested to be repaid to HM Treasury covering each year from 2012 - 2017
6) Please state clearly how much (if any) reduction/cap in funding by year as a result of repaying money back to HM Treasury from 2012 -2017. Please take into account annual inflation and state whether each year had increased/decrease in demand for discretionary housing payments.
7) How many tenants were rejected for discretionary housing payments each year 2012 - 2017
8) How many tenants were evicted from their homes as a result of not being awarded discretionary housing payments during 2012 - 2017.

Yours faithfully,

James Barrington

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Barrington

 

Thank you for your recent Freedom of Information request.  Please see the
Council’s response to your enquiry in bold below.

 

“From 1 April 2013, under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the government
removed what it called the spare room subsidy (also commonly known as the
Bedroom Tax). Under the changes, tenants in social housing have seen their
housing benefit reduced by 14% if they have a spare bedroom or 25% if they
have two or more.

 

The Government provided funding to local authorities which was termed
Discretionary Housing Payments. This was supposed to provide a safety net
in order to prevent evictions and arrears for tenants in need, but was
awarded at the discretion of local housing officers. However, there are
indications not all of the money was allocated to applicants, despite the
local authority stating there was higher demand than funds available. As a
result, it has been reported the funds which had not been awarded were
taken back by the Government Treasury and the following year funding was
capped to the amount which had been spent.”

 

Please advise if this funding was ring fenced solely to be used for
discretionary housing payments and if not what proportion was allocated
for this purpose.

 

The Department for Work and Pensions allocate funding to Local Authorities
to be awarded ,  when the Local Authority considers that as claimant
requires further financial assistance, ,towards housing costs and they are
 in receipt of either Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. This monies is
only used for this purpose.  

 

Please provide me with:

I have provided the chart below in response to the monies

 

1) Annual amounts of funding received from Government for Discretionary
Housing Payments for each year from 2012 - 2017.

2) How much was the total applied for by tenants each year from 2012 -
2017 for discretionary Housing Payments to help with their housing costs.

3) Annual amounts paid to tenants as discretionary housing payments to
help with their housing costs.

4) Annual amounts not spent/awarded on discretionary housing payments from
the funds available. Please state why funds were held back or not
allocated.

 

Every effort was made to promote take up of the scheme during the year ,
including contacting those affected by the benefit cap. The figure of
£127,198 represented the funding remaining at the end of the year 2016/17.

 

5) How much was repaid or has been requested to be repaid to HM Treasury
covering each year from 2012 – 2017

 

No funds were unspent in previous years.  We are awaiting contact from the
DWP in respect of the matter of the unspent funds in respect of 2016/17.

 

6) Please state clearly how much (if any) reduction/cap in funding by year
as a result of repaying money back to HM Treasury from 2012 -2017. Please
take into account annual inflation and state whether each year had
increased/decrease in demand for discretionary housing payments.

 

As above

 

7) How many tenants were rejected for discretionary housing payments each
year 2012 – 2017

8) How many tenants were evicted from their homes as a result of not being
awarded discretionary housing payments during 2012 - 2017.

 

We work closely with Registered Social landlords/Private Landlords  and we
are not aware of any tenants that have been evicted as a direct result of
the Local Authority not awarding or making only   a partial award of DHP.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Lynette Paterson

Senior Information Management Officer

Business Services - Digital

 

Treasury Building

Argyle Street
Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH

 

[1]Tel: 0151 691 8201

[2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

 

[3]LGC Awards15_Winner_MIP

 

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

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1. file:///tmp/Tel:0151
2. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]

Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

Thank you for your reply, however it is quite vague and does not answer the very specific questions I asked. Rather it attempts to skirt around answers by using statements such as "Every effort was made to promote take up of the scheme during the year..."

For the record I did not ask any questions regarding the attempts to promote the scheme. This may follow in future. Please restrict your responses to full and frank answers to questions I have asked.

You did not answer these questions:
1) Annual amounts of funding received from Government for Discretionary
Housing Payments for each year from 2012 - 2017.

2) How much was the total applied for by tenants each year from 2012 -
2017 for discretionary Housing Payments to help with their housing costs.

3) Annual amounts paid to tenants as discretionary housing payments to
help with their housing costs.

7) How many tenants were rejected for discretionary housing payments each
year 2012 – 2017

Your response to this question is not true or accurate:
8) How many tenants were evicted from their homes as a result of not being awarded discretionary housing payments during 2012 - 2017.

"We work closely with Registered Social landlords/Private Landlords and we are not aware of any tenants that have been evicted as a direct result of the Local Authority not awarding or making only a partial award of DHP."

I have documentary evidence of at least one case where the local authority refused DHP and knew the tenant was being evicted as a result. Since you deny knowledge of this and I have evidence to the contrary, it follows there may also be more cases who have been evicted as a result of the refusal to pay DHP. Please respond with honest and accurate information. Perhaps consulting with your Housing Benefits team may turn up the details you appear to be missing? You may also want to speak with PropertyPoolPlus and enquire about the number of accounts who have been registered/suspended as a result of Bedroom Tax arrears. Further, you may want to make enquiries with your social landlord partners regarding the state of arrears and past/pending evictions and collate the information regarding DHP applications and refusals with your Housing Benefit team. Most of this should be easily obtained with minimal administrative effort .

yours sincerely,

Jim Barrington

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Barrington,

 

Thank you for your further correspondence.  Wirral Council can confirm it
has responded to your query, however we have noted on the website on which
you submitted your request some of the information provided has displayed
as an attachment available for you to click on above your response.

 

We trust this now answers your queries.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Tracy O'Hare

Information Management Officer

Business Services - Digital

Treasury Building

Cleveland Street
Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH

[1]Tel:0151 691 8397

[2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

 

[3]LGC Awards15_Winner_MIP

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

References

Visible links
1. file:///tmp/Tel:0151
2. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]

Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

Thank you for your prompt follow up and do accept my apologies for not noticing the attachment. Thank you for pointing this out to me.

Please could you clarify some things as a result:

I would like to know why the total amount applied for DHP each year by tenants is not captured. Without this information how does Wirral Council know how much money to request from the Government so the funding matches demand? Also, how can it produce accurate statistical data regarding the effectiveness of the DHP processes and funding allocation if this information is missing?
Are there plans to retrospectively record this information so it reflects the actual situation regarding housing dhp appications versus refusals versus arrears and evictions resulting in homelessness?

Please explain why money is being demanded back by the DWP regarding underspend of the DHP funds allocated to meet the needs of tenants affected by the Bedroom tax and Welfare reforms

Please advise when the information will be available from the DWP regarding how much will need to be paid back and whether caps have been/will be applied because of the failure to spend the allocated funds. Your chart says this is not applicable but does not explain why.

Please explain why you hold no information on how many tenants were evicted from their homes as a result of failure to be awarded Discretionary Housing Payments. YOur earlier response says no evictions took place but this contradicts your chart which says no information is held. Please clarify this and explain why there is failure to record this information when clearly if it was recorded, a case could be presented for extra funding from Government to avoid/prevent/reduce homelessness.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Barrington

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr. Barrington,

Thank you for your further email which I am responding to as a request for
an internal review.   As the reviewing Officer I have revisited your
request and taken note of your comments, please see further information
provided alongside your comments below:

 

I would like to know why the total amount applied for DHP each year by
tenants is not captured. Without this information how does Wirral Council
know how much money to request from the Government so the funding matches
demand? Also, how can it produce accurate statistical data regarding the
effectiveness of the DHP processes and funding allocation if this
information is missing?

Are there plans to retrospectively record this information so it reflects
the actual situation regarding housing dhp appications versus refusals
versus arrears and evictions resulting in homelessness?

 

RESPONSE - Wirral Council can confirm applicants do not apply for a
specific amount of DHP, they apply for financial assistance with meeting
the shortfall in their eligible rent.  The local authority captures the
number of claims made, the number of successful claims and the number of
unsuccessful claims.  Local authorities therefore do not 'request' DHP
funding from DWP - DWP allocate funding (i.e.  The local authority has no
control over how much funding it receives from DWP).  As stated previously
the local authority has no information regarding evictions which occur as
a direct result of non-payment of DHP.  Eviction proceedings are
instigated and managed by landlords not the local authority.  The benefits
service works closely with registered providers on serious arrears cases
where the tenant is under threat of eviction and housing benefit is being
claimed.

 

 

Please explain why money is being demanded back by the DWP regarding
underspend of the DHP funds allocated to meet the needs of tenants
affected by the Bedroom tax and Welfare reforms

 

RESPONSE - Wirral Council can confirm DWP always claw back unspent DHP
funds from local authorities

 

 

Please advise when the information will be available from the DWP
regarding how much will need to be paid back and whether caps have
been/will be applied because of the failure to spend the allocated funds.
Your chart says this is not applicable but does not explain why.

 

RESPONSE -Wirral Council can confirm it does not know when we will be
notified by DWP of the clawback.  However local authorities are generally
notified in February or March of their DHP funding for the forthcoming
financial year.

 

Please explain why you hold no information on how many tenants were
evicted from their homes as a result of failure to be awarded
Discretionary Housing Payments. YOur earlier response says no evictions
took place but this contradicts your chart which says no information is
held. Please clarify this and explain why there is failure to record this
information when clearly if it was recorded, a case could be presented for
extra funding from Government to avoid/prevent/reduce homelessness.

 

RESPONSE - Wirral Council can confirm it is unaware of any evictions which
occurred as a direct result of non-payment of DHP.  Eviction proceedings
are instigated and managed by landlords not the local authority.  The
benefits service works closely with registered providers on serious
arrears cases where the tenant is under threat of eviction and housing
benefit is being claimed.

 

We trust this review now provides the clarification you sought.  You have
the right to complain to the Information Commissioner, if you are
dissatisfied with the outcome of any internal review. 

Contact details here    [1]www.ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

 

Yours sincerely,

Jane Corrin

 

Jane Corrin

Records and Information Manager

Business Services - Digital

 

Wirral Council

[2][email address]

 

Visit our website: [3]www.wirral.gov.uk

 

[4]cid:image002.jpg@01D066DD.D7571B40

      

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References

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2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://www.wirral.gov.uk/

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Jim Barrington please sign in and let everyone know.