Following the Fresh Start agreement (November 2015) a number of social security mitigations, specific to Northern Ireland were introduced, one of which was Discretionary Support launched on 28 November 2016.

Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner (ODSC) 

This office delivers an independent review service on Discretionary Support decisions made by the Department for Communities.

The ODSC business values are to:

  • place claimants at the centre of the review process
  • treat claimants, stakeholders and colleagues with respect and courtesy
  • respect and accept the differences of others in accordance with Section 75 obligations
  • work to improve standards of service provided for claimants of Discretionary Support
  • be receptive and responsive to the external environment and the way it influences and shapes our business future
  • engage in reflective learning and use this process to make improvements to the independent review service
  • recognise and value the members of our staff team for the contribution each makes in delivering efficient and effective services

Discretionary Support Commissioner NI

Les Allamby
Les Allamby

Les Allamby is a former director of Law Centre (NI) and Chief Commissioner at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. He is a solicitor who specialises in social security law. He has represented claimants before social security appeal tribunals, the social security commissioners and taken strategic cases to both domestic and international courts.

He was the first independent chair of the Social Security Decision-Making Standards committee and for nine years was the Northern Irish member of the Social Security Advisory Committee. He is committed to ensuring and supporting the best possible quality decision-making in meeting claimant’s needs in line with the legislation covering Discretionary Support payments. 

The Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner (ODSC) was established under The Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015, Part 7. The Commissioner upholds his statutory duties under Article 136 of the Order.

Office Structure

  • Discretionary Support Commissioner
  • Office Manager
  • Four Independent Discretionary Support Inspectors

Discretionary Support Inspectors

The independent review will be carried out by an Inspector acting on behalf of the Discretionary Support Commissioner. All Inspectors have completed JAM Card training and are committed to delivering a high quality accessible service.

Who can apply for an independent review?

If you applied for Discretionary Support and are unhappy with the outcome, you can ask the Department for Communities to review this decision. This will be done by a Departmental Review Officer. If after this review, you are still unhappy with the decision you can ask for an independent review.

The independent review will be carried out by an Inspector, who is independent from the Department for Communities, acting on behalf of the Discretionary Support Commissioner.

How do I apply for an independent review?

If you are still unhappy after your Departmental review has been carried out, please inform the Review Officer when you are contacted by phone.  You  have 28 days to request a review, so if you decide to do this you can contact Discretionary Support freephone at 0800 587 2750 who will refer your details on to us  for further consideration.

Alternatively, you can contact the Discretionary Support Service Centre or contact the Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner directly. Our preferred method of contact is by email: admin.odsc@dfcni.gov.uk.

A request for an independent review to be conducted by the Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner can be submitted within 28 days of your Departmental review decision.

The preferred method of contact is by phone when you are speaking with the Review Officer, however, you can also contact us by email at admin.odsc@dfcni.gov.uk.

The review request must:

  • provide the name, National Insurance Number, date of original Discretionary Support claim and contact details of the claimant.
  • be signed by the person making the application if in writing or contain the name and be sent from an identifiable email address.
  • be delivered to an office of the Department or the Office of the Discretionary Support Commissioner within 28 days of being notified of the Department’s decision. This can be done by email admin.odsc@dfcni.gov.uk
  • contain detail on the specific grounds upon which the application is made.
  • if the Review Request is late the request must contain the reason(s) why the request is late, if submitted outside 28 days.

We will contact you to allow you the opportunity to add any further information which may impact on your application. We may also wish to contact other relevant parties, (such as Social Workers or Healthcare professionals) for additional information. However, we will not do this without first requesting your permission to do so.

Our aim is to make an independent decision within one working day if the application is for living expenses or otherwise within 10 working days of receipt of a review request. There may be occasions where it may take longer. If this is the case, we will inform you of the reasons for any delay.