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25 March, 2020 Open access

Department for Communities in Northern Ireland suspends reviews and assessments for health and disability benefits for three months as a resuilt of COVID-19 pandemic

Communities Minister also announces that all routine appointments at Jobs and Benefits offices will be postponed, nobody will be penalised as a result of not attending the office, and compliance and benefit review interviews will cease

The Department for Communities in Northern Ireland has suspended reviews and assessments for health and disability benefits for a period of three months from 24 March 2020.

Announcing the suspension yesterday, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said that the new measures will see the suspension of -

Ms Hargey also confirmed that -

'Arrangements will be put in place to extend awards that have an end date to ensure benefit remains in payment. If people experience a change in their needs they are still encouraged to contact the Department to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support'.

Also with immediate effect, Ms Hargey said that all routine appointments at Jobs and Benefits offices will be postponed, and nobody will be penalised as a result of not attending the office. All routine appointments for the Make the Call Service and compliance and benefit review interviews will also cease, and the Access to Work Programme will be suspended.

In addition, Ms Hargey announced enhancements to the Discretionary Support scheme to further support people affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. These emergency measures will be introduced from today and include the introduction of a grant payment to assist with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate, and there will be no limit on the amount of an individual award which will be calculated based on individual circumstances.

NB - Ms Hargey also tweeted on 21 March 2020 that she has signed off £1.82 million for -

For more information, see Hargey introduces further measures to protect the most vulnerable and their families and Minister announces further support for those affected by COVID-19 from ni.gov.uk