If you are unable to meet your basic needs, such as putting food on the table or keeping the heat or lights on, or you need to deal with an unforeseen event, like losing your job or an essential appliance breaking down, you may be able to access emergency support from the government or certain charitable organisations.
Finance Support Service
Short-term financial support from the Department for Communities to help cover living costs or obtain essential household items. The Department operates several schemes, each with different criteria, but usually on the basis that you are dealing with ‘an extreme or exceptional situation, or be in a crisis which puts you or your immediate family’s health, safety or well-being at significant risk’.
Universal Credit Contingency Fund
Grant to help with the cost of living while waiting for your first full payment when making a claim for Universal Credit.
Loans and grants to help with short-term living expenses, replacement of household items, some travel expenses and rent payable in advance to a private landlord. Loans will have to be repaid by automatic deductions from benefit or through a negotiated repayment plan.
Short-Term Benefit Advance
Advance payment of means-tested benefits when making a new claim or reporting a change of circumstances. Must be repaid within 12 weeks.
Social Fund Budgeting Loan
Loan to cover the cost of essential household items or necessary costs in certain cases, such as starting work or moving house. Repaid by automatic deductions or through a negotiated repayment plan.
A small number of charitable organisations offer limited financial support with short-term living expenses.
- B&CE Charitable Trust
- Boots Benevolent Fund
- Charity for Civil Servants
- Macmillan Cancer Support
- Royal British Legion
- Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP)
There are also smaller, local charities, such as churches, that may be able to offer help. To find out about support in your area, we recommend getting in touch with your local independent advice service.
We work in partnership with the Trussell Trust, which has food banks across Northern Ireland. Our helpline advisers can issue vouchers to those in need, which can be exchanged for an emergency food parcel containing a minimum of three days’ food.
A number of local organisations also operate food banks, and the best way to find out about these is by contacting your local independent advice service.
Lots of food banks also provide essential household items, such as toiletries, as well as foodstuffs.
If you are sleeping on the streets, do not have a proper place to live or you cannot continue living at your current address, there are a number of agencies that offer support, including temporary accommodation.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is the government department that is responsible by law for supporting people who are homeless. To request help from NIHE you can ring 03448 920 900 Monday to Friday from 9-5, and 03448 920 908 at all other times. You can get more information at the Housing Help section of the NIHE website.
A number of charities also provide support to people who are homeless:
- Bryson Intercultural
- Salvation Army
- Simon Community
- Welcome Organisation
- Women’s Aid
If you need advice on a housing issue you can contact Housing Rights, who will help you to navigate the housing system whatever your circumstances. Call 028 9024 5640 between 9:30-16:30 from Monday to Friday or request help online. Housing Rights also provide a wealth of information about housing issues through the Housing Advice NI website.
Struggling with debt, managing bills and rising prices can put a lot of strain on our ability to cope. If you are finding it difficult to manage it is really important not to ignore your mental health and to talk to someone.
If you or someone you know is in immediate physical danger or needs urgent medical attention you should always call 999 to alert the emergency services.
In less extreme circumstances, Lifeline provide a free helpline for anyone that is ‘experiencing distress or despair’ and their counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To contact Lifeline call 0808 808 8000, or for Textphone users 18001 0808 808 8000.
Childline provides a similar service for young people.
There are a variety of charities across Northern Ireland providing expert advice and support on mental health issues:
You can also find numerous local organisations offering community-based support through mindingyourhead.info.