Finance Support

Finance Support is available to support people in times of financial crisis or need. Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants that were available under the Social Fund have now ended.

About Finance Support

Finance Support can provide help through:

  • Discretionary Support
  • Short-term Benefit Advances
  • Sure Start Maternity Grants
  • Funeral Payments
  • Budgeting Loans
  • Cold Weather Payments

Support in a crisis

In a financial crisis you can apply for Discretionary Support or a Short-term Benefit Advance via freephone to the Finance Support Service.

You will be asked questions to help decide which support is most suited to you and then taken through your claim application.

You should be given a decision immediately on whether you are eligible.

Discretionary Support

Discretionary Support provides quick, short-term financial support. The following conditions apply:

  • 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 be a resident of Northern Ireland
  • help can only be provided within Northern Ireland, so you cannot receive Discretionary Support for a crisis which occurs anywhere else
  • you must be over 18 years old or at least 16 years old if you do not have any parental support
  • you can receive Discretionary Support if you are working or receiving benefits but your annual income must not be above a set threshold (currently the national living wage of £16,286 a year)
  • 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
  • you cannot be awarded more than a maximum of three loans and one grant in a 12 month period
  • if together your Social Fund, Discretionary Support and Short-term Benefit Advance debt is £1,000 or more, you will not be able to get a Discretionary Support loan until your debt falls below this limit

If you are eligible, you could be offered a Discretionary Support loan or grant. The Finance Support Advisor taking your application will be able to decide whether a grant or loan is suitable for you and your situation. It’s important you know that if you are eligible for a loan, you must be able to pay it back.

To apply, contact the Finance Support Service.

How to request a review

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

If you're still unhappy with the outcome, you can ask for a further review by the Discretionary Support Commissioner who is independent from the Department for Communities (DfC).

This should be requested in writing within 28 days of the last decision about your application received from DfC.

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

Short-term Benefit Advance

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.

You can ask for this when you are making a new or repeat claim, or reporting a change in circumstances that increases the rate of benefit you are already receiving. You must be able to afford to repay the advance within 12 weeks.

An advance of benefit can be given to you for the following benefits:

To apply, contact the Finance Support Service.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

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.

Funeral Payment     

If you’re on a low income and need help to pay for a funeral you’re arranging, you may be able to get a Funeral Payment. You might have to repay some or all of it from the deceased person’s estate.

For more information, including how to apply, see Funeral Payments.

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.

Cold Weather Payment

Cold Weather Payment typically runs between November and March each year.

It allows you to qualify for extra money each week there is very cold weather in your area. 

For more information, see Cold Weather Payment.

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