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Give your views on a new Support system to help almost 50,000 more people in need

Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland has called on those with an interest to air their views on a new system of grants and loans for those most in need.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The new Discretionary Support system is unique to Northern Ireland and will offer assistance to those facing the most exceptional, extreme or crisis situations who have no others means of support. It will replace some elements of the current Social Fund scheme following the introduction of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Previously, grant payments could only be accessed by those on certain benefits; the new system opens grants up to everyone as long as they meet qualifying criteria.

Minister McCausland said: “It is estimated that approximately 275,000 claimants may be eligible for the new Discretionary Support system, that’s an increase of 49,000 on the old Social Fund system.

"We are living in difficult and rapidly changing social and economic times and I believe that the most vulnerable in our communities need to be able to access, quickly and easily, the right type of help in times of emergency or crisis. This new system has been designed with the specific needs of people in Northern Ireland in mind and I would call on all those with a view on its future to make these known by responding to this consultation."

The new system is made up of non-repayable grants and interest-free repayable loans with clear eligibility for each.

To obtain a copy of the consultation go to the DSD website

By telephone: 028 9082 9559

Write to:

Social Fund Reform Consultation
1st Floor Lighthouse Building
Gasworks Business Park
BT7 2JB.

The consultation period will end on 23 April 2013.

Notes to editors:

  1. The new locally-designed Discretionary Support system will replace Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans.
  2. Qualifying criteria is when a person’s income is at, or below the National Minimum Wage and that they are experiencing a sudden, unexpected financial crisis such as dealing with the impact of a disaster like a fire or a flood, or needing to set up home as a result of fleeing domestic violence or coming out of residential care.
  3. The Consultation process around the design of this Discretionary Support begins on 29 January 2013 and runs until 23 April 2013. The consultation document will be available at the DSD website and any comments should be sent to
  4. Media enquiries to DSD Communications Team on 028 9082 9496 or email . Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440.