The Council's Allocation Policy was amended to align assessed property size need with the social sector size criteria in the Welfare Reform Act.
The rationale for this was to ensure that tenancies allocated were sustainable and that applicants on low incomes and in receipt of benefits were not offered accommodation that was potentially unaffordable.
Since the introduction of the social size criteria there have been a number of challenges to the regulations; some that have been successful and led to changes in the administration of Housing Benefit.
While separate from the Allocation Policy and decisions having no authority on its operation, the Council considers these developments to see if there are any principles that should be taken into consideration when applying the Allocation Policy.
In order to respond to exceptional housing need the Allocation Policy allows the Housing Services Manager to exercise discretion in responding to individual cases. Such cases will usually be those where there is a special or urgent need and there will usually be multi-agency support.
As such cases are exceptional each one is considered on its own merits.
Severely disabled children and bedroom entitlement
Following a successful Court challenge the Government issued new guidance in relation to the social size criteria which allows Housing Benefit to be paid on an extra room for children who are unable to share because of their severe disabilities.
The Guidance advises that when a claimant says that their children are unable to share a bedroom it will be for the Council to satisfy themselves that this is the case. A claim will be supported by medical evidence and many children will be in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) care component at the middle or highest rate for their medical condition.
In addition, councils must consider not only the nature and severity of the disability, but also the nature and frequency of care required during the night, and the extent and regularity of the disturbance to the sleep of the child who would normally be required to share the bedroom. In all cases this will come down to a matter of judgement on facts of each individual case.
It should be noted that the judgment does not provide for an extra bedroom in other circumstances, for example, where the claimant is one of a couple who is unable to share a bedroom or where an extra room is required for equipment connected with their disability.
In considering this change, and the Allocation Policy alignment with welfare reform principles, the Council considers it is right that applicants with a severely disabled child who say their child is unable to share a bedroom will be invited to provide evidence to support this position.
Requested evidence will include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- Medical evidence detailing the nature of the disability, how this effected by the home environment and the impact on other members of the household.
- Other supporting information from care and support agencies involved with the child and family (this should be specific information relating to the request for re-housing rather than a general letter of support and is likely to be from specialist rather than universal services); and,
- Proof of DLA entitlement.
On receipt of this information a home visit will be arranged if not already completed and an appointment made with the Council's Medical Advisor.
Following this the Housing Services Manager will consider all the information, make any further enquiries necessary and make a decision about bedroom entitlement.
The decision, with reasons, will be sent to the applicant.
There is no right of review of this decision however where an applicant is unhappy with the way their application has been administered they can make a complaint through the Council's complaint process.
Details of how to do this will be included in decision letters where an applicant has been refused consideration for an extra room.