Minister announces further support for those affected by COVID-19

Date published: 24 March 2020

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has today announced enhancements to the Discretionary Support scheme to further support people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency measures will be introduced from tomorrow and include the introduction of a grant payment to assist with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate. There is no limit on the amount of an individual award, which will be calculated based on individual circumstances.

Speaking in the Assembly today, Minister Hargey said

“It is my priority is to protect the health and well-being of those who find themselves in a crisis situation as a result of COVID-19. I am determined that my Department will do everything it can to help people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate. 

“This new legislation will ensure that there is additional financial support available for the most vulnerable people. This is support that is not available in England, Scotland and Wales and alongside the welfare mitigation package, will ensure that people here have access to a more generous social security system.”

In addition, the Department for Communities is working to introduce a new online claim form to deal more quickly with claims for Discretionary Support living expenses. As soon as this is available, there will be a further announcement and people will have the option to apply through nidirect

Other changes to Discretionary Support announced today include enhancements to the way in which awards for living expenses are calculated. This is expected to increase the amounts paid.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Discretionary Support was introduced here to replace Social Fund Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for living expenses. Awards can be made as either a loan or a non-repayable grant to assist with a range of crisis situations. This can include an award to assist with living expenses where a person has no means of meeting immediate costs for themselves or their immediate family.
  2. Media enquiries to DfC Press Office on 028 9082 3516 or email: press.office@communities-ni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
  3. Follow us on twitter @CommunitiesNI

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