Fighting the benefit cap: a case study

Westminster city hallJane is a single mother who lives with her 21 year old autistic son, Harry.  Although Jane is Harry’s registered carer and he is in receipt of a range of disability benefits, because the housing benefit claim is in her name, Jane is nonetheless affected by the £500 per week benefit cap.

This has seen Jane’s housing benefit reduced by over £100 per week, which has jeopardised both of their accommodation.  We assisted Jane to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), which was successful, but Westminster have made this conditional on her contributing £20 per week from Harry’s disability benefits.  We are currently helping Jane to challenge this by way of internal review, but are also looking into more permanent solutions.

We have identified a possible solution utilising Regulation 8 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006. This regulation allows a resident to claim housing benefit for a shortfall in rent on the basis that it is reasonable to treat them as if they were liable because they might lose their home as a result of the tenant not paying their rent.

Thus we have made a claim for housing benefit for Harry on the basis that Jane (the liable tenant) is unable to pay the rent in full and he is likely to lose his accommodation as a result. As per the regulations we are asking Westminster to treat Harry as if he were liable to pay rent, even though technically it is not enforceable against him.

Ironically Westminster have decided to turn down Harry’s claim, but at the same time asked his mother to use his benefits to top up the shortfall in her rent.  On the one hand they argue it is not reasonable to treat Harry as if he were liable, but on the other they ask his mother to use his benefits to cover exactly that liability.  We have brought this to Westminster’s attention when challenging the DHP decision and the refusal of Harry’s claim.  We await an answer

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