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Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018

Part 5 (Discretionary Housing Payments)

128.Local authorities are empowered by section 88 to assist individuals who appear to them to need help towards their housing costs. It is for local authorities to determine what assistance to give, though persons assisted must be entitled to housing benefit, or universal credit that includes an amount of assistance with rent. These are limits to the legislative competence given to the Scottish Parliament by virtue of section 25 of the Scotland Act 2016 and limits taken from the pre-existing Discretionary Housing Payments scheme which devolved as a result of the 2016 Act. Section 88(3) defines terms that are part of the limits derived from section 25 of the 2016 Act.

129.Section 89 imposes further restrictions on the use of the power. Subsection (1) prevents assistance being provided as a loan, reflecting a restriction in how current schemes are operated. Subsections (2) to (4) reflect limits on competence derived from section 25 of the 2016 Act.

130.Local authorities must publicise their schemes of assistance. Such publicity must include the details listed in section 90. The duty to publicise the scheme of assistance is subject to section 92(4) which is discussed below.

131.Section 91 requires local authorities to have regard to any guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers about their exercise of the power to make discretionary housing payments. The Scottish Ministers must consult local authorities, through a representative body, before issuing any guidance. Subsection (2) describes some of the matters that guidance may deal with. Different guidance can be addressed to different local authorities, which might (for example) be used to issue different guidance to local authorities that are housing authorities and to those that are not. Subsections (5) and (6) require the Scottish Ministers to lay a copy of any guidance before the Scottish Parliament and to make it publicly available. Subsection (7) enables guidance to be updated and revoked.

132.Section 92 allows the Scottish Ministers to give grants to local authorities for the purpose of running discretionary housing payments schemes, and ring-fences those grant monies so that they can only be spent for that purpose. Subsection (3) provides that a local authority only has a legal obligation to operate a discretionary housing payments scheme for so long as it retains monies granted to it for that purpose, although as subsection (5) makes clear the fact that money specifically granted for the purpose has run out does not prevent a local authority from continuing to operate a scheme using other funds available to it should the authority wish to do so. If a local authority is not running a payments scheme because it has spent all the monies granted to it by the Scottish Ministers, subsection (4) absolves the authority from the duty to publicise the scheme under section 90.

133.Section 93 empowers the Scottish Ministers to amend section 88, to allow for changes to the legislation relating to housing benefit or universal credit, or should other reserved benefits be created to assist persons with their housing costs.

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