You may be able to get help towards short-term living expenses or household items.
Help with money for short-term living expenses or household items
If you are in an extreme or exceptional situation or you are in a crisis you can apply for help from Discretionary Support. Depending on your personal circumstances, you could be offered either an interest-free loan or a grant that you would not have to pay back.
Discretionary Support can help with:
- short-term living expenses (for example to buy food)
- the cost of buying, repairing or replacing basic household items (for example a cooker)
- travel expenses (in limited circumstances)
- rent you have to pay in advance to a landlord other than the NIHE
Any financial support you are awarded for living expenses will normally be for the period from the date you apply to the day before you are due to get your next income payment (for example, the day before your next benefit payment or wage is due to be paid). You may be able to get support awarded for a longer period if your next income payment would not be enough to pay your essential living expenses.
In any 12-month period you can get the following.
- up to three Discretionary Support loans to help with short-term living expenses and household items
- The amount you are awarded will take account of your ability to repay the loan and any government debt you need to repay (Social Fund loans, Discretionary Support loans, short-term benefit advances and Universal Credit advances)
- one Discretionary Support grant for help to allow you or your immediate family to live independently in the community
- one Discretionary Support grant for living expenses if
- you could not repay a Discretionary Support loan
- you and your partner (if you have one) currently have a combined total government debt of more than £1,500
- you cannot be awarded more than three Discretionary Support loans, one grant for living expenses and one grant for household items in a 12-month period, except in the case of a disaster
- if you receive Discretionary Support for an item such as a washing machine or mattress, you cannot receive another award for the same item in the same 12-month period, except in the case of a disaster
- if you and your partner (if you have one) have total government debt of £1,500 or more, you will not be able to get a Discretionary Support loan
- you must have an extreme or exceptional situation or be in a crisis which puts your or your immediate family’s health, safety or well-being at significant risk
- you must live in Northern Ireland
- the crisis must have arisen in Northern Ireland
- you must be over 18 or at least 16 if you do not have any parental support
- your and your partner’s (if you have one) total annual income after deductions must not be more than £22,230.00
- (Some types of income are not taken into account when assessing this figure and reductions can be made for expenses such as housing costs)
- any money including savings you or your partner have may be taken into account when making an award
Eligibility for Discretionary Support and whether you are awarded a grant or a loan will depend on your individual circumstances and, if appropriate, those of your immediate family.
You can also apply for Discretionary Support if you are a full-time student and suffering financial difficulties as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How you apply for Discretionary Support
You will need to give the following information:
- your National Insurance number
- information on your rent or mortgage
- details of your income
- details of your savings
- your account details
Apply to the Finance Support Service
How the loan or grant is paid
The loan or grant will be paid into the account you give Finance Support details of.
Paying off the Discretionary Support loan
If you receive:
- Income Support
- Pension Credit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (income based)
- Employment Support Allowance (income related)
the Finance Support Service will recover the Discretionary Support loan by taking deductions direct from the benefit.
If you do not in receive any of those benefits or you receive Universal Credit you will need to make repayments by Direct Debit.
You need to contact the Finance Support Service immediately if you cancel or make any changes to the Direct Debit arrangement.
Other payment methods (cash or cheque) will be accepted at local Jobs & Benefits offices.
If you are unhappy with a decision
If you are unhappy with Finance Support’s decision on your application, you can ask for a review within 28 days of the decision. To do this, contact the Finance Support Service.
If you are unhappy with the decision from Finance Support’s review, you can ask for the Discretionary Support Commissioner, who is independent of the Department for Communities, to carry out another review.
You can advise the person on the phone who is giving you the decision you want to do this, or you can contact the Finance Support Service in writing within 28 days of the decision from the first review.
More information can be found at The Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner