Department for Communities Covid-19 support

15 Jan 2021 Shauna O'Neill    Last updated: 15 Jan 2021

Information on the support and services available through the Department for Communities to individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

COVID-19 Heating Payment

The Department has put in place a one-off heating payment for those people who are in receipt of Pension Credit, or are in receipt of certain disability benefits (at the higher rates) in recognition of additional costs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eligibility criteria does apply and the full details are available on nidirect. For those who are eligible, the Covid-19 Heating Payment will be a one-off payment of £200 paid automatically into the same account to which they receive their usual benefit payments. The Covid-19 Heating Payment is in addition to any other payments, including the Winter Fuel Payment and will be paid from the week commencing 25 January. People do not need to apply for this payment.

Find out more about the COVID -19 Heating Payment

Discretionary Support

This is support to help those in an extreme or crisis situation and who need emergency help or support with living expenses. This includes:

  • a non-repayable Discretionary Support self-isolation grant payment to assist with short term living expenses where a person, or any member of their immediate family, is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is advised to self-isolate in accordance with guidance published by the Regional Agency for Public Health and Social Well-being and
  • extending Discretionary Support to full-time students suffering financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19

Eligibility criteria applies and more details can be found on nidirect.  

If you have been advised that you are not eligible for Discretionary Support or any other support including the COVID-19 Heating Payment you should contact the COVID-19 Community Helpline (see below). You will be asked to demonstrate that the need for assistance has arisen as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and provide evidence that you are struggling to afford heating/fuel costs.

Find out more about Discretionary Support

Warm, Well and Connected

In December DfC launched the ‘Warm Well Connected’ Programme to help reduce your risk of isolation, improve your emotional wellbeing, and support you to take part in physical activity and help you eat well. 

The 'Warm' element aims to provide help and support to those whose wellbeing has been impacted by cold conditions and those in the most extreme need. In some cases help with essential white goods may be available.

Under this programme help is only available for those who have not been able to get help anywhere else and whose finances have been directly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is not monetary nor will vouchers be provided. Support will be small in value and only for those in extreme need who are unable to heat their homes by any other means. Other avenues of support should be explored before applying to Warm, Well and Connected. 

Find out more about Warm, Well, Connected

Cold Weather Payments

In recognition of the cold weather and increased costs associated with heating a home the Department also has in place its Cold Weather Payment. This payment is triggered as a result of cold weather and is paid automatically to those who are in receipt of a qualifying benefit and live in a postcode area where the temperature is, or forecast to be, zero degrees or below for seven consecutive days.

People can find out more and check if their postcode is in an area due to receive payments triggered by cold weather by going to nidirect.

Annual Winter Fuel Payments

The Annual Winter Fuel Payments made to those people over the age of 65 continue to be issued in the normal way. You’ll usually get this automatically if you are eligible and get State Pension or another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Child Benefit or Universal Credit). If you’re eligible but don’t get paid automatically, you will need to make a claim. These payments are non COVID related payments.

Further Information on Winter Fuel Payments

COVID-19 Community Helpline

DfC continues to operate the COVID-19 Community Helpline and advisers are on hand to connect people to local support networks who can assist with accessing not only fuel but food, medicines and psychological support services. Advice is also available to help tackle underlying issues such as employment, debt, and access to social security support. 

The helpline is local to Northern Ireland, and is managed by Advice NI.

  • freephone number:  0808 802 0020

You can also get in touch by email, text message or webform:

Please visit nidirect in the first instance to check out what help and support is available before contact the helpline. This may assist you in getting the right support much more quickly.

Further help and support:
You can visit NICVA's CommunityNI website to find local services and support available in your area. Visit the website here: www.communityni.org/help

shauna.oneill@nicva.org's picture
by Shauna O'Neill

Information Officer

[email protected]

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