The Discretionary Support scheme is designed to provide a quick and short term financial need in a crisis.
Community Care Grants were abolished in Northern Ireland in November 2016 although Budgeting Loans are still available.
Discretionary Support can be provided in the form of either a loan or a grant. To apply for Discretionary Support you must meet the following criteria:
- 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 £15,600 per annum)
- 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 your combined 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
Discretionary Support grants do not need to be repaid however loans will have to be paid back.
How To Apply For Discretionary Support
The application process for Discretionary Support is carried out over the phone. You can do this by calling the freephone number: 0800 587 2750.
You will receive your Discretionary Support decision at the end of the phone call.
How To Request A Review If You Are Unhappy
You can ask for a review of your Discretionary Support decision within 28 days. This can be done either by contacting Finance Support either by phone or in writing.
If you are still unhappy with the new decision you can then apply to the Discretionary Support Commissioner and ask for a further review of your claim. The Discretionary Support Commissioner is independent from the Department for Communities. You need to ask for an independent review within 28 days of your last decision.
This should be requested in writing within 28 days of the last decision in respect of your application received from the Department for Communities. You can find out more information regarding an independent review by visiting The Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner.
For more information about Discretionary Support call the Independent Welfare Changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020 or visit NI Direct.