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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Help from the discretionary support fund

Finance Support may be able to help you with money in an emergency. 

What is Finance Support?

The Finance Support Service is a government service. It can provide grants or interest-free loans to people who need help in an emergency. This can include help with

  • everyday living costs
  • moving costs
  • furniture or appliances
  • rent in advance for a new home.

Finance Support replaces the old social fund. This website is not part of the Finance Support service. 

Who can get help from Finance Support?

You can apply for help if you live in Northern Ireland and have, or have applied for, a National Insurance Number. 

You will only get help if:

  • you are over 18 or if you are 16 or 17 and have no parental support and 
  • your annual income is less than £20,405

You may not be able to apply for help if

  • you already owe more than £1,500 in government loans
  • you have asked Finance Support for help for the same item in the last 12 months.

You can only get 1 grant in a 12 month period. You can get 3 loans in a 12 month period, as long as the total amount you borrow is less than £1,500.

People who can only apply in a disaster

You will only be able to get help from Finance Support in a disaster if you :

  • are a third level student, or
  • are subject to a trade dispute, or
  • have had your benefits sanctioned.

If you are in one of these groups, but need money because of COVID-19, you can apply to Finance Support for help. 

Universal Credit contingency fund

You can apply for a different grant if you are waiting for your first payment of Universal Credit. This is the Universal Credit Contingency Fund payment. 

Apply to Finance Support for this help. Make sure to explain that you are applying for the contingency fund grant. 

How to apply to Finance Support

You can apply by

Help with housing costs

Finance Support can not help with deposits or rent that you owe your landlord. 

You may be able to get a loan to pay rent in advance if you have to pay this before you can move into a new home. The amount you get will be based on housing benefit amounts and may be less than the landlord has asked for.

You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you are getting benefits and these don't cover your full rent. 

How much will you get?

This depends on what you need help with. It's a good idea to make a list of the things you need and to check catalogues first so you know how much these cost. 

You need to provide measurements if you ask for help to buy floor or window coverings. 

Finance Support may not approve each item you've asked for. And, you may not get the exact amount you ask for each item. 

Will you get a loan or a grant?

The money you get could be either a loan or a grant. 

You may get a grant, if:

  • the money will help you to live independently
  • you have had to leave your home
  • you owe £1,500 to Finance Support but need help with essential living costs
  • you can't afford to repay a loan.

Help to pay rent in advance will always be a loan. 

Paying back a finance support loan

You don't have to pay interest on the loan. You have to pay the loan back within a year, but you can get more time in certain circumstances. 

What happens if Finance Support says no to your application?

You can ask for an internal review. You need to ask Finance Support to do this within 28 days of the decision.

Ask for a second stage review from the Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner if you are still unhappy. 

Other types of emergency help

There is other help if you are struggling, including loans, grants and help from charities.