Financial support in a crisis

Quick, short-term financial support may be available if you are in an exceptional, extreme or crisis situation and need financial help. Support includes Discretionary Support, Short-term Benefit Advances, Sure Start Maternity Grants, Budgeting Loans and Cold Weather Payments.

Discretionary Support

Discretionary Support is quick, short-term financial support. It is paid either as an interest-free loan or grant into your bank account.

If you are awarded a loan, you must be able to pay it back within a specified time. 

Eligibility

To be eligible, 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 live in Northern Ireland
  • help can only be provided within Northern Ireland, so you can't 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, including the income of your partner, must not be above the national living wage
  • 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 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 £1,000 or more, you will not be able to get a Discretionary Support loan

How to apply

To apply, contact 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   

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, 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 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 will only be eligible if you don’t have access to any other funds or support and you must be able to repay the advance within 12 weeks.

If you are eligible, it will be paid into your bank account on the day you apply.

How to apply

To apply, contact the Finance Support Service.

If you claim Universal Credit, you should instead apply through the Universal Credit Service Centre.

You will need the following information:

  • your National Insurance Number
  • details of your benefit
  • your bank account details

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.

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.

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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