Law Centre NI is very concerned about changes to the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) scheme which will leave some people living in the private rented sector in Northern Ireland at increased risk of poverty and homelessness.
DHP provides extra support with rent if Universal Credit or Housing Benefit does not fully cover the full costs of that rent. This is a vital lifeline that helps people maintain their tenancy and safeguards them from the risk of homelessness.
In a significant change in policy, DHP will now cease for people who have been receiving this help for two years or more. It is planned that the maximum award for people who remain eligible to keep DHP or make a new claim will be limited to £20 per week. This means that for some people there will be a shortfall between their rent and benefits.
The changes come after a decision by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as a direct consequence of severe and immediate budgetary pressures.
Owen McCloskey, Head of Social Security at Law Centre NI, said:
The loss of Discretionary Housing Payment is a devastating blow for many people who are already struggling to meet the costs of their rent in the private rented sector.
As a member of the Cliff Edge Coalition, Law Centre NI is part of a large group of organisations throughout Northern Ireland campaigning for support for private renters who are already under pressure as a result of the freeze on Local Housing Allowance, increased rents and cost of living pressures.
We are very aware how crucial Discretionary Housing Payment has been for many private sector tenants and the loss of this safety net only puts them at much greater risk of falling into poverty and homelessness. It is vital that urgent measures are put in place to find a way to sustain this much needed help and political support is urgently needed to keep people in their homes.
Law Centre NI’s social security team is available on 028 9024 4401 for people who are concerned as to how changes to Discretionary Housing Payment may affect them.