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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Help from the discretionary support fund

You can apply for financial help if you have an emergency. This includes help with rent in advance if you have to move suddenly or need to buy essential items for your new home. 

You need to apply for this help over the phone. Call Finance Support on 0800 587 2750 to apply. The phone lines can get very busy so you may need to try several times before you get through. Finance Support can't help with most housing costs. If you are receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and this doesn't cover your rent, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment instead. 

Who can apply?

You can ask Finance Support for help if you are in Northern Ireland and you need financial help to deal with a problem in Northern Ireland. 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 £16,286.40, but certain benefits aren't counted when working out your income.

You may not be able to apply for a loan if

  • you already owe more than £1,000 in government loans
  • you have been given three financial assistance loans in the last 12 months
  • you have already applied for financial assistance for the same item in the last 12 months.

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

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

Discretionary support loans

Help can be in the form of a loan or a grant. You don't have to pay interests on the loan. You normally have to pay back the amount you were given within a year, but you can be given more time in certain circumstances. 

Discretionary support grants

You may get a grant, instead of a loan, if:

  • the money will help you or your immediate family to remain or begin living independently in the community
  • you or your immediate family have been prevented from remaining in your home
  • you have already borrowed £1,000 from Finance Support but need help with essential living costs
  • you would be eligible for a loan, but you can't afford to repay it.

Excluded items

You can only get help with certain types of expenses. Certain items and services are excluded from this system. These include

  • work related expenses
  • educational or training needs, including uniform, books and equipment
  • legal or court costs
  • medical items
  • respite care or domestic assistance
  • housing costs, aside from rent in advance
  • holidays
  • debts to government departments
  • funeral or maternity expenses.

Challenging a decision

You can request an internal review if you feel that you were refused financial support when you should have received this.

If you are still dissatisfied with the outcome  of the internal review, you can ask for a second stage review from the Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner.

Benefit advances

If you are really struggling, you may be able to get an advance on your benefits. An advice agency can help you to work out if you are entitled to get an advance payment. The advance payment is paid back by reducing your future benefit payments slightly. You won’t be able to get an advance on your Housing Benefit.

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 within 104 weeks and you won't have to pay any interest on what you borrowed.

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.

Other help

There are other payments that can be made in emergencies, such as