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Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Help from the social fund

You may be able to get money from the Social Fund to help with a housing problem.  This could be to cover rent in advance if you’re renting privately or to help buy emergency supplies for your new home.
The Social Fund manages Budgeting Loans, Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants. To find out more about Social Security Benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance, Income Support and Disability Living Allowance, visit NI Direct.

Budgeting Loans

You can get a budgeting loan of up to £1, 500 from the Social Fund. A budgeting loan helps you spread the cost of essential things over a more manageable period. It can also be used to cover rent in advance if you have to more to a privately rented property.  The loan has to be repaid.
You will only get a budgeting loan if you or your partner receives pension credit or has been getting one of the following benefits for at least 26 weeks

  • Income Support
  • Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income related Employment & Support Allowance.

Crisis Loans

You can apply for a crisis loan if you need financial help because of an emergency or disaster. You can apply for up to £1, 000. This is an interest-free loan to cover the cost of essential things that you can't afford. It can also be used to pay rent in advance if you have to move suddenly because of the emergency.  The loan has to be paid back.
You don’t have to be claiming benefits to apply but you do need to be over 16.

Community Care Grants

Community Care Grants are supposed to help people live independently or relieve pressure for families.  They will only be paid to people who are claiming Income Support, income based Jobseeker's Allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit. 

It can be difficult to get a grant but it is worth applying. You might get a community care grant if:

  • you are leaving residential care or an institution (for example, a children's home),
  • you need help to stay in your home (for example, you need adaptations to make your home suitable for your needs),
  • you haven't had a stable home for a long time and you are getting help from a resettlement team,
  • your family is under extreme pressure (for example because of a long-term illness, separation or divorce),
  • you are looking after a disabled person,
  • you are looking after a prisoner or young offender on home leave,
  • you are looking after someone with serious health problems

Social fund decisions

Your chances of getting a grant or loan and the amount that you get depend on

  • the available Social Security Agency budget,
  • your personal and financial circumstances
  • whether you owe the Social Fund money from a previous loan

The amount of money you get could be reduced if you have savings over certain thresholds or you’ve not repaid a previous social fund loan.

If you don’t agree with the Social Security Agency’s decision you could ask for it to be reviewed but it can be difficult to get this kind of decision overturned.  Speak to a benefits advice agency if you’ve been turned down for a crisis loan, budgeting loan or a community care grant.

Paying back a Social Fund loan

You have to repay the loan within 104 weeks. The loan is interest free and you repay what you borrowed. If you are on benefits, a fixed amount is deducted from your income support or jobseeker's allowance until the loan is repaid. The Social Security Agency won’t give you a loan if it looks like you won’t be able to pay it back.

Winter fuel payments

A Winter Fuel Payment is a government payment to help older people heat their homes in winter.  The payment is not means tested but not everyone is eligible for these payments.  If you’ve received the payment before you should automatically get it every year.  You may have to contact the Winter Fuel Payment hotline if another older person who is eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment has moved into your home.
NI Direct can help you work out if you’re entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment.

Cold Weather Payment

A Cold Weather Payment is different to a Winter Fuel Payment. You may get one for each week of very cold weather in your area. These payments are only made if the temperature drops zero for seven days in a row.

Cold weather payments are made automatically to people receiving certain benefits if the temperature in their area reaches the trigger point.  The payment is £25 each week.