Reply To: servive charges for specialist equipment


Here is a reply I got from the DWP in respect of specialist baths which may be helpful.

“As you will be aware, although the Department for Work and Pensions has overall responsibility for the scope and structure of the Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax Benefit (CTB) schemes, local authorities have full statutory responsibility for their day-to-day administration. This Department cannot give an authoritative interpretation of the regulations; that is a matter for authorities to decide subject to any court ruling and depending on the circumstances of each individual case. I hope, however, that you find the following comments helpful.

In simple terms HB is considered to be a bricks and mortar benefit available to secure a person’s occupation of the home by meeting a reasonable rent and service charges connected with providing that home. The individual needs of the tenant should not influence the amount of benefit due; that is for such funding streams as Supporting People and Care in the Community.

The starting point is that any service charge is treated as rent for Housing Benefit through HB regulation 12(1)(e) where it is a condition of the right to occupy the dwelling. It was an unavoidable cost when taking on the liability. However, certain service charges are made ineligible through a combination of HB regulation 12(3) with schedule 1. Those charges which are deemed to be eligible for benefit can be reduced through paragraph 4 of the latter to a reasonable amount having regard to comparable services. The bottom line for any service charge is that it must be connected with the provision of adequate accommodation and therefore eligible for benefit through sub-paragraph 1(g) of schedule 1 to the HB regulations.

There is no definition of adequate accommodation in the HB regulations; therefore it is the every day understanding of the phrase that should be used. The HB/CTB Guidance Manual (A4.174) points to the accommodation being adequate for any tenant rather than the particular tenant. An eligible service charge would therefore generally be one that relates directly to the fabric of the dwelling covered by the tenancy and not to meeting the individual needs of the tenant.

A specialist bath and a hoist are only necessary so that the person can be cared for. The charge is therefore ineligible through paragraph 1(e) of schedule 1 to the HB regulations. I would imagine that it is the responsibility of the care trust or social service department that oversees this person.”