Cuts to Discretionary Support grants are ‘an attack on the most vulnerable’, says Advice NI

Due to an inadequate budget allocation, the Department for Communities has scaled back funding for the Discretionary Support scheme which provides emergency grants and loans for people on a low income who are in an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation.
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Compared to a Discretionary Support final grant spend of £40.3m in 2022-23, the Department has allocated £20m for 2023-24, restricting grant awards to only those items deemed absolutely essential and extending the exclusion period in which an item can be re-awarded to a period of 24 months except in the event of a disaster or a ‘setting up’ home situation.

Speaking about the cuts to Discretionary Support grants, Bob Stronge, Advice NI Chief Executive said: “We must remember that the Discretionary Support scheme already operates on the basis of the applicant being in extreme need or in a crisis situation. It is unacceptable that the Department has found itself in the position of having to balance the books by cutting support to those vulnerable people most in need.

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Department for Communities has scaled back funding for the Discretionary Support scheme Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireDepartment for Communities has scaled back funding for the Discretionary Support scheme Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Department for Communities has scaled back funding for the Discretionary Support scheme Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“We recognise that the real problem does not rest with the Department. It is having to deal with an inadequate budget settlement which means that any increase in funding towards the Discretionary Support scheme for those in crisis means that other vital services across the Department being cut to make up the shortfall.

“We know that the Chancellor has bolstered the GB Household Support Fund, the GB equivalent of the Discretionary Support scheme, to the tune of an additional £1bn acknowledging the cost of living crisis which is hitting everyone but hitting the poorest hardest."