Department for Communities launches consultation on changes to discretionary support scheme to reflect £20 million budget reduction in 2023/2024

Views sought on impact of changes implemented today that restrict grant awards to ‘basic needs’ only and extend restriction on repeat awards to 24 months

The Department for Communities in Northern Ireland has launched a consultation on changes to its discretionary support scheme being made to reflect a reduction in the allocated budget for the scheme from £40 million to £20 million for 2023/2024.

Further to the Department confirming its funding decisions for the delivery of social security in Northern Ireland in light of the restricted 2023/2024 Budget, the consultation focuses on the changes it is making to discretionary support as outlined in a Draft Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA).

In particular, the draft EQIA confirms that two key changes have been implemented from 3 July 2023 to –

  • restrict grant awards to basic needs only – such as cookers and beds – except in ‘setting up’ and disaster situations; and
  • extend the exclusion period in which an item can be re-awarded to a period of 24 months, an increase from the current minimum period of 12 months, except in the event of a disaster or a ‘setting up’ home situation.

The Department says that the changes are running concurrently with the consultation on the basis that –

'Given recent levels of demand, action must be taken now to restrict awards to remain within the current budget and sustain the scheme to the end of the current financial year – particularly during the high demand expected in the winter months.'

While responses to the consultation can be made until 25 September 2023, the Department advises that interested parties are encouraged to respond by 31 July 2023 in order that their views can inform the Department's changes to its discretionary support policy. Any consultation responses received between 1 August 2023 and 25 September 2023 will be used to inform future policy changes in order to sustain financial support throughout the 2023/2024 financial year.

For more information, see Consultation on changes to the Discretionary Support Scheme from