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Northern Ireland

Contact a Family provides support, advice and information for families with disabled children, no matter what their condition or disability

What do we do?

Support Groups
Groups provide parents of disabled children with essential practical and emotional support. Find more local and national groups, call our free phone helpline on 0808 888 3555 or visit making contact for more online support.

We produce a wide range of information on topics such as special educational needs, dealing with debt, and transition. These are available in our online resources library; remember to select Northern Ireland in the country drop down list to view.

Information requests for professionals
Contact a Family NI support all types of health, government and social care professionals with specialist information on families of disabled children. Call 028 9262 7552 or email nireland.office@cafamily.org.uk to find out more.

Contact a Family NI workshops for parents of disabled children include building confidence, benefits and welfare, money management, transitions and other information around your child. We also run workshops such as cake making, health and beauty. These activities are fun and provide an opportunity to meet other parents in similar circumstances. Please get in touch for opportunities in your area.

Training, talks and presentations
Contact a Family have delivered training, talks and presentations to social services, local health trusts, and to students and community groups. We welcome opportunities to meet parents, stakeholders and professionals As well as opportunities to deliver training and raise awareness. For more information on the topics available contact nireland.office@cafamily.org.uk

Partnerships and Policy
Contact a Family Northern Ireland work with strategic partners in the voluntary sector, health professionals and local government to make sure families of disabled children are informed and considered by decision makers. For opportunities to respond to current consultations and make your voice heard please visit NI News pages.

Contact A Family NI has moved!

Contact A Family has relocated to an office in the groundworks NI building beside NICVA at 63-75 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast, BT15 2GB.

The new location:

  • is on the ground floor and fully accessible for wheelchair users
  • is Wifi enabled
  • has free on street parking
  • is easily accessible with excellent public transport links
  • is close to weslink M1, M2 and M5.


Office address

Contact a Family Northern Ireland has moved. We are now located at:

63-75 Duncairn Gardens
BT15 2GB
028 9262 7552

Local contacts

Frances Murphy, frances.murphy@cafamily.org.uk - national policy and campaigning. Tuesday - Thursday.

Lindsay Wallace, lindsay.wallace@cafamily.org.uk - 07507 932 403 - newsletter, information and enquiries. Monday - Thursday.

Our family workers offer parents one-to-one help
and support through times of need. If you live in the Northern Board area please contact us. Please email all referrals.

Virginia Maxwell, (P/T) 07754 392 632 or virginia.maxwell@cafamily.org.uk.

Karen Patterson, (P/T) 07926 767 773 or karen.patterson@cafamily.org.uk.

For general enquiries, please email nireland.office@cafamily.org.uk.

News for Northern Ireland

Welfare Reform

Following agreement by both houses on the text of the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Act 2015, it received Royal Assent on 25 November 2015.

The bill is now an act of parliament, which means it has passed into law.

What's Changing?

Many existing means-tested benefits are due to be abolished and replaced by a new benefits system.

Universal Credit will replace many existing benefits

Universal Credit (UC) is a single means-tested benefit which will be paid to people of working age. It will replace most means-tested benefits including:

  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit.

Personal Independence Payment will replace Disability Living Allowance for people aged between 16 and 64

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged between 16 and 64. DLA will remain the benefit for disabled children under 16.

PIP will be paid to you if you're very ill or disabled and have trouble getting around or need help with day-to-day living.

If you're 16-64 and already getting DLA, your claim won't automatically be transferred to PIP - you'll have to make a new claim.

Housing Benefit

If you live in a Housing Executive or Housing Association home and claim Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent, your Housing Benefit may be cut. This could happen if your home is considered too large for you. This is also known as the 'bedroom tax'.  It will only apply to working age Housing Benefit claimants.

Benefit Cap

A benefit cap means there will be a limit on the total amount of money from certain benefits you can get if you're of working age. To begin with the cap will only affect you if you're getting Housing Benefit, and you may get less money towards your rent. If you're not getting Housing Benefit, your benefits won't be capped.

Social Fund

Currently, if you get certain benefits, you may be able to get a payment or loan from the Social Fund. These are meant to help towards the costs of unexpected or one-off expenses.

However, as part of the welfare benefit reforms, parts of the Social Fund will be abolished while others, such as funeral or maternity expenses and budgeting loans, will be paid under Universal Credit. A new service called Discretionary Support will offer grant and loan payments if you are in extreme hardship.

New conditions about looking for work

When Universal Credit is introduced, if you're out of work or in work but on a low income you'll have to sign a new claimant commitment. This will set out a number of work-related requirements you'll have to meet before you can get your benefit.

Will your income from benefits be lower after the changes?

When you transition to Universal credit your income may be lower after the changes. If this is the case in your circumstances a period of transitional protection will be applied.

There is no transitional protection for people currently getting Housing Benefit. This means that your income may go down as soon as the new Housing Benefit rules become law. If you are getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), your DLA will continue to be paid for 28 days after the PIP decision, whether or not you're entitled to PIP.

Other useful information

More information is available on the NI Direct website.

Counting The Costs Northern Ireland

Counting the Costs is our campaign highlighting the financial pressures and additional costs faced by families with disabled children.

This year the campaign will focus on Universal Credit and Carer's Allowance and the national minimum wage.

Find out more on our Counting the Costs webpage or see our latest research on finances, work and childcare.

Grant scheme for registered childminders

The Childcare Partnerships, in association with the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), have announced a small grants funding scheme made available through the Northern Ireland Executive Programme for Affordable Integrated Childcare - Bright Start.

The purpose of this small grant scheme is to provide financial support to registered childcare providers to purchase specialist equipment or make adaptations to premises that will help them support individual children within their care. Applicants must be able to identify an individual child with a disability or complex need who will directly benefit from this funding. 

Potential applicants should contact their local Childcare Partnership team if they have any further queries about the scheme.

More information is available on the Northern Ireland government website.

Events for Northern Ireland

Carers Week 2016

Monday 6 - Sunday 12 June

Each year Carers Week aims to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges that carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities. The focus is to build Carer Friendly Communities that are places where carers feel supported to look after their family or friends and are recognised as individuals with needs of their own.

Last year 1,346 organisations and 973 individuals got involved, holding events and activities for carers across the UK. If you would like to find an event near you, or organise your own event, visit Carers Week.

Fathers and Families

Belfast 11 May - 15 June 2016, every Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm

Parenting NI are running a course especially for dads to emphasise the important role that dads play. The course can help you gain skills to use a positive approach to parenting. The workshop promises to be fun, interactive and an opportunity to build a support network.

For more information or to book, call Parenting NI on 0808 801 0722.

Relaxed Performances

Movie House

On the first Saturday and Sunday of each month, at 11am, Movie House Cinemas at Cityside Yorkgate and Coleraine screen a relaxed performance of a popular childrens film.

Contact Movie House cinemas for more infomation.

Carrickfergus Omniplex

Carrickfergus Omniplex is now showing subtitled and sensory films every week. They do an adult screening every Monday between 5pm and 6pm, and it is a different film each week.

They also do a kids film every Sunday morning between 11:30am and 12:15pm. Again, this is a different film once a week.

The movies are advertised on the Carrickfergus Omniplex website and are available each Wednesday for the following week. The cost is a normal priced ticket, but the carer (valid proof must be shown) will enter for free.


Primary - Secondary education
Leaving school

Change can be a challenging time for young people and their families. Many parents can feel anxious at this time as they are unsure about the future. It is vital that young people and their families plan for change as early as possible. Our workshops will help you find out what you need to do to help your child into adulthood.

For more information about our workshops contact Lindsay Wallace.

Parent and toddler groups for children with hearing and sight loss - Southern Trust

Third Thursday of each month from 10.30am-12.30am
Splash Surestart, Office 3, First Floor, Legahory Centre, Craigavon BT65 5BE

A new parent and toddler group in partnership with NCDS, Angel Eyes and Splash Surestart, Craigavon, for parents and carers of sight and or hearing loss, and additional needs and their siblings aged 0-4, has been started.

A range of sensory toys will be available as well and games and an opportunity to explore the dark den. Refreshments will be provided.

Contact Roisin on 028 9032 9373.

Parent and toddler groups for children with hearing and sight loss - Northern Trust

Last Thursday of each month from 10.30 am-12.30pm
Jordanstown School, Jordanstown

Parent and toddler group in partnership with NCDS, Angel Eyes and Jordanstown school for parents and carers of sight and or hearing loss children, and additional needs and their siblings aged 0-4.

Children will have the opportunity to play with sensory toys and in a soft play area. Refreshments will be provided.

Contact Marcella on 028 9032 9373.

Parenting education programmes

Dates and venues vary.

Parenting NI provide a range of educational programmes and resources to parents from course specifically for fathers, anger management, parenting teens and much more.

To register your interest in a programme call their freephone helpline on 0808 8010 722.

Be safe, stay safe

Leonard Cheshire Disability, First Floor, Cheshire House, 12 Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast BT9 6FL

'Be Safe Stay Safe', led by Leonard Cheshire Disability, helps disabled people in Northern Ireland feel safer in their homes and in their communities. Leonard Cheshire Disability offers free training to voluntary or statutory groups. For more information on 'Be Safe Stay Safe', to arrange a training session or to register interest in becoming involved in the project, please contact the numbers above.

Contact 028 9066 1281 or email besafestaysafe@LCDisability.org.uk for more information.

Come and play events

Taughmonagh Playground and Springhill Millenium Park, Belfast

Belfast City Council is running events in local parks at Taughmonagh Playground and Springhill Millenium Park for children aged 5 - 11 years old. This is an ongoing programme throughout the year.

For enquiries, contact Jenny Carson on 028 9075 3897 or 07920 817 120.

Find local services at


Our SENDirect service is a website where families of children with disabilities or special educational needs can search for and compare local support, activities and services.