Discretionary Support

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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 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 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.

You can also apply for Discretionary Support online.

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.

Further Information

For more information about Discretionary Support in Northern Ireland, call our freephone helpline on 0800 915 4604 or visit NI Direct.