NI: Professor Grainne McKeever to chair review of discretionary support scheme

NI: Professor Grainne McKeever to chair review of discretionary support scheme

Professor Grainne McKeever

Professor Grainne McKeever, professor of law and social justice at the University of Ulster, has been appointed to chair an independent review of the discretionary support scheme.

Professor McKeever will be joined on the panel by Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick, also of University of Ulster; Gerry McConville of the Falls Community Council; Jonny Currie of the Trussell Trust; Ursula O’Hare of Law Centre NI; and Kevin Higgins of Advice NI.

Discretionary support was introduced to replace Social Fund community care grants and crisis loans following their abolition as part of Westminster welfare reforms in 2016.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “Discretionary support was designed to ensure that immediate assistance could be given to individuals who found themselves facing extreme circumstances.

“The obvious need for such a programme was called into sharp focus last year with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, it was clear enhancements to the scheme were needed to support people on low incomes who were worst affected by the pandemic – so we made sure these enhancements were made.

“I want to do more so I have appointed an expert panel to review the Discretionary Support scheme.

“This review gives the panel scope to look at all aspects of the current programme and to provide any recommendations needed to make it better.”

She added: “I would like to thank the panel chair, Professor Grainne McKeever and the other panel members, for taking forward this review, which I have asked to be completed within a short three to four month timeframe.

“I look forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations and to supporting people who find themselves in extreme situations.”

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