Discretionary Financial Assistance Policy

1. Background

The Milton Keynes Council Discretionary Financial Assistance Policy (DFA) brings together three different funding streams:

  1. Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)
  2. Local Welfare Provision (LWP) payments
  3. (DCTR) awards

DHPs provide additional financial assistance with housing costs to those who are entitled to Housing Benefit (HB) or Universal Credit (UC) [1]. The payment may be ongoing help with rent or one off housing related costs such as moving home.

The LWP scheme provides assistance to vulnerable people by way of one off payments for goods and services.

The DCTR scheme complements the main Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme and allows for a further reduction in the amount of Council Tax charged where exceptional circumstances exist.

2. Statement of objectives

The aim of the policy is to enable our most vulnerable residents, who cannot access any other support, to sustain their home, health, family and security.

The assessment of applications is part of a holistic approach to prevent homelessness and help MK citizens who are in a short term crisis get back on track. This is achieved through the provision of additional financial support with rent or Council Tax, goods, food vouchers, electricity/fuel vouchers, signposting, support, etc., where such support is likely to move an applicant towards a sustainable solution.

The policy is, in particular, aimed at those who have been most impacted by the Government’s Welfare Reform Agenda.

In addition to considering financial assistance, applicants are signposted to advice and guidance relevant to their needs, linking them with Statutory Services and other relevant organisations. The financial support is a means through which contact and communication with the applicant can be used to assist them and their families with their longer term wellbeing.

3. Priorities

Many of the Welfare Reforms are conceptual and have a varied impact depending on individual circumstances, some of which are disproportionate. This policy is therefore aimed at assisting citizens who are considered to be most at risk rather than those simply in need.

This includes people at the edge of statutory intervention and those already in contact with Statutory Services.

The policy offers support where individuals or families are at risk of:

  • homelessness including tenancy at risk
  • breakdown of family cohesion / stability (including domestic violence)
  • damage to Health
  • loss of independence
  • unemployment

In order to target support effectively the focus is likely to be on certain disadvantaged groups, such as, young people leaving care in the transition to adult life, people with disabilities or mental health issues.

4. Qualifying criteria for an award

Applicants do not have an automatic right to an award. The decision is entirely at the Council’s discretion.

Each case will be treated on its own merits having regard to relevant legislation, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guidance, the budget position of the schemes and the Council’s duty to the public purse. 

Assessments are approached in two ways:

A true financial assessment of income and essential outgoings, to establish

  • If there is a need for additional financial support, and
  • That the support will enable the applicant to reach a long term solution that is not reliant on discretionary payments or is the only viable long term solution. 


A health and welfare assessment on the basis of a person’s ability to cope with day to day financial matters aimed at alleviating mental health pressures, personal crises and difficult events.

Awards will not be made where any of the following apply:

the situation can be resolved by some other legitimate means

  • the applicant is excluded from receiving welfare benefits on the basis of immigration status
  • the situation arose as a result of benefit fraud
  • the Council deems that the person has been culpably neglectful in relation to their circumstances
  • the Council deems that an award is unlikely to assist in providing a significant and sustainable reduction in one of the risks set out in section 3 of this policy

Due to limited finances and to ensure that awards benefit the Milton Keynes community, Local Welfare Provision funded awards will only be considered if:

  • The applicant is able to demonstrate a settled residence in Milton Keynes or has been placed in housing outside the area by Milton Keynes Council or, in the case of someone leaving prison or care or is fleeing domestic violence, be about to move into Milton Keynes.
  • A person has not received an award within the past 6 months. NB/ where an award is inherently linked or seen as an extension to a previous award, this will be classed as one award.

In exceptional situations, an award may be made where the policy’s eligibility criterion is not met but an award would comply with the DFA policy’s overall aims and are within the law. This may include, but is not confined to payments made under powers conferred by section 13A(1)(c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, which allows a billing authority to reduce the amount of Council Tax chargeable to alleviate pressure on individuals or communities in crisis situations for example, where a disaster, such as flooding has occurred.

5. Applications

Only one application needs to be made to access the different types of assistance. The team administering the scheme will access whichever funds are most appropriate for the customer. 

Wherever possible, MKC will link in with trusted partners, who can signpost applicants to the scheme or make applications and recommendations on a person’s behalf.

Where the law does not specify that an application must be made [2]. Council Officers may identify cases where a payment would mitigate a risk and no application will be required.

6. Reconsiderations, reviews and appeals

A review of a decision or appeal can only be considered on the basis that the decision maker has not correctly applied this policy. Where an applicant is aggrieved by a decision but the basis of the disagreement is not that the policy was incorrectly applied, there is no grounds for an appeal or review.

Where an applicant does not believe this policy has been applied in relation to a request for a Discretionary Council Tax Reduction, the appeals procedure is as prescribed by Section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, details of which will be included in the decision notification.

Where a decision is in respect of a Discretionary Housing Payment or a Local Welfare Provision payment, there is no statutory right to an appeal. Judicial review is available on points of law.

In the interests of fairness the Council will operate the following internal procedure:

  • Level One, reconsideration: an applicant (or their representative) can ask for an explanation of decision at any time. They can ask for the original decision to be looked at again if they have additional information that they believe might alter the decision or if they believe that information they have already submitted has been overlooked or misunderstood. This reconsideration will normally be dealt with by the original decision maker.
  • Level Two, review: if the applicant (or their representative) believes that the decision maker has not correctly applied this policy, they can ask for their concerns to be examined by a more senior officer. The second officer will look at the reasons for the decision, whether it complies with this policy and decide if any changes should be made to the decision.

An applicant also has the right to take the matter up with a local Councillor who can also consider if the policy has been correctly applied.

A request for a reconsideration or review will not be considered to be a complaint and will therefore not follow the Council’s complaint procedure.

Complaints involving the quality of service will be dealt with separately under the council’s complaints procedure. The officer handling the complaint will not reconsider or review the outcome of the application.  

Fraud, error and overpayments

An award can be recovered if it is deemed by the Council to be made as a result of a misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact either intentionally or otherwise.

If the council suspects that fraud may have occurred, the matter will be investigated as appropriate and this could lead to criminal proceedings.


[1] UC entitlement must include rental Housing Costs.

[2] DHPs require a person to make a claim. DCTR requires an application if there is no CTR award.

Benefits Team - existing claims contact information