Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has welcomed the work of a Discretionary Support independent review panel at a formal handover of its report.
The panel of experts, chaired by Professor Gráinne McKeever of Ulster University, was appointed by Minister Hargey in June to review the Discretionary Support scheme which provides financial support to individuals in crisis situations.
Minister Hargey said,
“The Discretionary Support scheme provides support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society but I want to do more.
“I will consider the panel’s detailed recommendations and will continue work on improving and developing timely and targeted support for those who find themselves in extreme situations.”
Minister Hargey commissioned the independent report as part of a comprehensive review of Discretionary Support which engaged with users of the service and their representatives in a participatory approach.
Professor McKeever was joined on the panel by academics, grassroots community leaders and advice workers, including Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick and Dr Mark Simpson, also of University of Ulster; Gerry McConville of the Falls Community Council; Jonny Currie of the Trussell Trust, Ursula O’Hare of Law Centre NI and Kevin Higgins of Advice NI.
Minister Hargey continued,
“The Discretionary Support independent review panel was given the scope to look at all aspects of the current programme and to provide any recommendations needed to make it better.
“I would like to thank the panel chair, Professor Gráinne McKeever and the other panel members for the comprehensive work carried out and their critical examination of what works well within the current scheme and what we can do better.”
Chair of the independent review panel, Professor Gráinne McKeever said,
"It was an honour to chair this important and independent review into Discretionary Support, which can provide a lifeline for those in crisis.
“Northern Ireland developed a unique system to replace the Social Fund and our Review examines how well this is working for those who need to access it and provides recommendations on how to improve it."
Notes to editors:
- Discretionary Support is unique to the North and was introduced in November 2016 to provide a fast and responsive means of receiving short term financial support. The Scheme seeks to assist those in an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation presenting a significant risk to the health, safety or well-being of either the person making the claim to Discretionary Support or their immediate family.Officials have previously completed internal reviews of the Discretionary Support policy, legislation and operational delivery of the scheme.
- It is proposed to publish the final report in early 2022.
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