Extra financial support

The Finance Support Service supports people who live in Northern Ireland and are in need of short term financial assistance.

This short term financial assistance is available from the Finance Support Service as a:

  • Universal Credit Contingency Fund Short-term Living Expenses Grant,
  • Discretionary Support COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Short-term Living Expenses Grant,
  • Discretionary Support
  • Short Term Benefit Advance, 
  • Social Fund Budgeting Loan or 
  • Social Fund Sure Start Maternity Grant. 

Universal Credit Contingency Fund Short Term Living Expenses Grant

A Universal Credit Contingency Fund payment is a non-repayable grant that may be available to people are normally within the first Universal Credit assessment period following a new application to Universal Credit and are continuing to experience financial difficulties, subject to them meeting certain eligibility criteria.  

Note: Only one grant for Universal Credit Contingency Fund Living Expenses or Discretionary Support Living Expenses can be paid in any 12-month period.

Universal Credit Contingency Fund short-term living expenses (for example a short term supply of groceries) will normally be payable from the date of application to the day before the person’s next income is due to be received (for example the next benefit payment). Decision Makers have the discretion to make awards for longer periods if the person’s next income would not be considered sufficient to meet their need for living expenses.

It is important to note that the calculation of all short-term living expenses awards are completed in the same way regardless of the type.

To help alleviate the financial difficulties people face during the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) public health crisis, the amount payable for short term living expenses has been increased to the full daily Income Support personal allowance for a person, their partner, and any dependent children. There is no limit on the number children that can be included in an award.

Eligibility 

  • you must have an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation which places you or your immediate family’s health, safety or wellbeing at significant risk
  • you must live in Northern Ireland
  • help can only be provided within Northern Ireland, help cannot be provided if your crisis occurs anywhere else
  • you must be over 18 years old or at least 16 years old if you do not have any parental support
  • your annual income, including the income of your partner, must not be above the national living wage of £20,405. This is based on the National Living Wage for over 25 year olds (currently £8.72 per hour) over a 45-hour week and is automatically adjusted whenever this rate increases.  

How to apply for a Universal Credit Contingency Fund Living Expenses Grant from the Finance Support Service

You will need the following information:

  • your National Insurance number
  • rent or mortgage information
  • details of your income
  • details of your savings
  • your bank account details

Apply to the Finance Support Service.

How is it paid

Payments will be paid into your nominated bank account.

Discretionary Support during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic

To help support people during the COVID-19 pandemic the Department for Communities has put in place additional support. This includes:

  • a non-repayable Discretionary Support grant payment to assist with short term living expenses where a person, or any member of their immediate family, is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is advised to self-isolate in accordance with guidance published by the Regional Agency for Public Health and Social Well-being and
  • extending Discretionary Support to full-time students suffering financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19.

Discretionary Support COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Short-term Living Expenses Grant

A Discretionary Support COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Short-term Living Expenses Grant is non-repayable and may be available to a person or any member of their immediate family who has either been diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to self-isolating in accordance with the latest guidance published by the Regional Agency for Public Health and Social Well-being.

Discretionary Support COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Short-term Living Expenses (for example a short term supply of groceries) will normally be payable from the date of application to the day before the person’s next income is due to be received (for example the next benefit payment). Decision Makers have the discretion to make awards for longer periods if the person’s next income would not be considered sufficient to meet their need for living expenses.

It is important to note that the calculation of all short-term living expenses awards are completed in the same way regardless of the type.

To help alleviate the financial difficulties people face during the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) public health crisis the amount payable for short term living expenses has been increased to the full daily Income Support personal allowance for a person, their partner and any dependent children. There is no limit on the number children that can be included in an award.

Eligibility

  • you must have an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation which places you or your immediate family’s health, safety or wellbeing at significant risk
  • you must live in Northern Ireland
  • help cannot be provided if your crisis occurs outside Northern Ireland
  • you must be either:
    over 18 years old
    at least 16 years old (if you do not have any parental support)
  • your annual income, including the income of your partner, must not be above the national living wage of £20,405 per year.  This is based on the National Living Wage for over 25 year olds (currently £8.72 per hour) over a 45-hour week and is automatically adjusted whenever this rate increases
  • you or a member of your immediate family has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or
  • you or a member of your immediate family has advised to self-isolate in accordance with guidance published by the Regional Agency for Public Health and Social Well-being

How to apply for a Discretionary Support COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Short-term Living Expenses Grant from the Finance Support Service  

You will need the following information:

  • your National Insurance number
  • rent or mortgage information
  • details of your income
  • details of your savings
  • your bank account details

Apply to the Finance Support Service.

How is it paid

Payments will be paid into your nominated bank account.

Discretionary Support

A person who is in an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation can apply for assistance from the Discretionary Support.  A person will make their application to Discretionary Support and taking account of the personal circumstances a decision maker may make an award in the form of an interest free loan or non-repayable grant.

Discretionary support loans are to help with short-term living expenses (for example a short term supply of groceries) or with the other forms of expenditure to include the repair or replacement of basic household items (for example a cooker), to pay for travelling expenses in specified circumstances, and for rent in advance to a landlord other than the NIHE.

Only three Discretionary support loans to provide help with short-term living expenses or these other forms of expenditure may be awarded to a person in any rolling 12-month period. The amount awarded will take into account a person’s ability to repay and the amount of money a person owes will be restricted to a maximum £1500 of government debt.     

One Discretionary Support grant to provide assistance to a person or their immediate family to allow them to remain or begin living independently in the community may be awarded to a person in any rolling 12-month period.    

In addition, one Discretionary Support grant for living expenses may be awarded to a person in any rolling 12-month period if they do not have the ability to repay a loan or if their current government debt is above £1500.

A Discretionary Support award will depend on each person’s individual circumstances and, if appropriate, their household.  The type of award a person receives for example. a Discretionary Support Loan or a Discretionary Support Grant will be determined by the Discretionary Support decision maker after they have taken full account of the person’s individual circumstances.  It is not possible for the person making the application to determine this in advance.

If you are a full-time student and suffering financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic you can now apply for Discretionary Support.

If you are experiencing difficulties with your rental payments, you are also encouraged to contact your landlord or letting agent to discuss flexibility in terms of payments.

Eligibility

  • you must have an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation which places you or your immediate family’s health, safety or wellbeing at significant risk
  • you must live in Northern Ireland
  • help cannot be provided if your crisis occurs outside Northern Ireland
  • you must be either:
    over 18 years old
    at least 16 years old (if you do not have any parental support)
  • your annual income, including the income of your partner, must not be above the national living wage of £20,405 per year.  This is based on the National Living Wage for over 25 year olds (currently £8.72 per hour) over a 45-hour week and is automatically adjusted whenever this rate increases.
  • if you receive a Discretionary Support award 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;
  • you cannot be awarded more than three Discretionary Support loans and one grant in a 12-month period, except in the case of a disaster
  • if together your Social Fund, Discretionary Support and Short-term Benefit Advance debt, including the debt of your partner, is £1,500 or more, you will not be able to get a Discretionary Support loan

Discretionary Support short-term living expenses (for example a short term supply of groceries) will normally be payable from the date of application to the day before the person’s next income is due to be received (for example the next benefit payment). Decision Makers have the discretion to make awards for longer periods if the person’s next income would not be considered sufficient to meet their need for living expenses.

It is important to note that the calculation of all short-term living expenses awards are completed in the same way regardless of the type.

To help alleviate the financial difficulties people face during the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) public health crisis the amount payable for short term living expenses has been increased to the full daily Income Support personal allowance for a person, their partner and any dependent children. There is no limit on the number children that can be included in an award.

Replacement of essential household items

Discretionary support may be awarded in the form of a grant to provide assistance to a person or their immediate family to allow them to remain or begin living independently in the community.    

Only one Discretionary support grant for household items and one Discretionary Support grant for living expenses may be awarded to a claimant in any rolling 12-month period except in the event of a disaster.

How to apply for Discretionary Support from the Finance Support Service

You will need the following information:

  • your National Insurance number
  • rent or mortgage information
  • details of your income
  • details of your savings
  • your bank account details
  • if you are applying for floor or window coverings, the sizes of coverings you need   

Apply to the Finance Support Service 

How is it paid

Payments will be paid into your nominated bank account.

Recovery of Discretionary Support loan payments

If you are in receipt of one of the following benefits or pensions we will take deductions directly from you benefit:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income Based)
  • Employment Support Allowance (Income Related)

If you are in receipt of Universal Credit or are not in receipt of a Social Security benefit or pension you will be required to make repayments by Direct Debit. You are required to contact us immediately if you cancel or make any changes to this this arrangement.

Alternative payment methods (cash or cheques) will be accepted by local Jobs & Benefits offices. 

How to request a review

If you're unhappy with your decision, you have the right to ask for a review within 28 days of your initial decision. To do this, contact the Finance Support Service.

If you're unhappy with the review outcome, you can ask for a further review by the Discretionary Support Commissioner who is independent from the Department for Communities. This should be requested in writing within 28 days of the review decision.

For more information visit The Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner.

Short-term Benefit Advances

This is an advance on your benefit payment if you have an urgent financial need that could have a serious impact on you or your family’s health, safety or wellbeing.

To be eligible you must:

  • have made a new or repeat claim (and be likely to be eligible for that benefit) , or reported a change in circumstances that increases the rate of benefit you already receive
  • not have access to any other funds or support
  • be in urgent financial need that could have a serious impact on you or your family’s health, safety or wellbeing
  • be able to repay the advance within 12 weeks

A short term benefit advance may be payable for any of the following benefits

  • Bereavement Benefit
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • ESA (Contributory)
  • ESA (income related)
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • JSA (Contributory)
  • JSA (income based)
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • State Pension (Contributory & Non Contributory)
  • Widows Benefit  

A short term benefit advance is not payable for any of the following benefits

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment Attendance Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Bereavement Support Payment

How to apply for a Short-term Benefit Advance

You will need the following information:

  • your National Insurance Number
  • details of your benefit
  • details of the bank account that your benefit is paid into

Apply to the Finance Support Service.

How is it paid

Payments will be paid into the back account that your benefit is paid into.

How to request a review

You don't have a right to appeal a decision about a Short-term Benefit Advance, however, you can ask for it to be reconsidered. You must ask for this on the day the decision was made by contacting the Finance Support Service.                                                                                      

Social Fund Budgeting Loans

Budgeting loans may be available if you are on a low income and need help with costs such as furniture or essential household equipment, clothing, footwear or home improvements.

For more information, including how to apply, see Budgeting Loans.

Social Fund Sure Start Maternity Grants

This is a one-off payment to help towards the cost of maternity and baby items if you are on a low income or getting certain benefits or tax credits. It is tax-free and does not have to be repaid.

For more information, including how to apply, see Sure Start Maternity Grants.

DfC SMS text messages

When claiming Discretionary Support, Short-term Benefit Advance and Universal Credit Contingency Fund payment you may receive telephone calls or text messages (SMS) from the Department for Communities (DfC). They will always be clearly marked as DfC and will never ask you to give, or click a link to give, personal information or financial details by message or email.

If you’re concerned or unsure about any text messages (SMS) you receive from Finance Support you should contact Finance Support Service directly. If you suspect you have received a fraudulent message as a scam,  contact Finance Support Service immediately.

  • Further information is available at: scamwiseni

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