Department for Communities

Department for Communities
Department for Communities logo.svg
Department overview
Formed May 2016
Preceding agencies
  • Department for Social Development
  • Department for Employment and Learning
  • Department of the Environment
  • Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Jurisdiction Northern Ireland
Headquarters Lighthouse Building, 1 Cromac Place, Gasworks Business Park, Ormeau Road, Belfast, BT7 2JB
Employees 7,452 (September 2011)[1]
Annual budget £505.4 million (current) & £161.6 million (capital) for 2011–12[2]
Minister responsible

The Department for Communities is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The minister with overall responsibility for the department is the Minister for Communities. The department was previously created in May 2016 following the Fresh Start Agreement and the dissolution of several departments, such as the Department for Social Development, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department for Employment and Learning from which several functions have amalgamated.


DfC's overall aim is "tackling disadvantage and building sustainable communities".[3]


The department's main responsibilities are as follows:

Northern Ireland has parity with Great Britain in three areas:

Policy in these areas is technically devolved but, in practice, follows policy set by Parliament to provide consistency across the United Kingdom.[4]

The department is also responsible for the following public bodies:

It also oversees the Office of the Social Fund Commissioner.

DfC's main counterparts in the United Kingdom Government are:

In the Irish Government, its main counterparts are:


Housing policy in Northern Ireland was originally a responsibility of local government and the Ministry of Home Affairs, which (similarly to the Home Office) retained responsibility for policy areas not delegated to other ministries.

A separate Ministry of Health and Local Government was established in June 1944, as part of the welfare state. In January 1965, that department was divided between the Ministry of Development (including housing policy) and the Ministry of Health and Social Services (including social security).

The two ministries were, respectively, renamed as the Department of the Environment and Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) under direct rule, introduced in March 1972. Health and social services and environment ministries were also included in the Northern Ireland Executive briefly established in 1974.

DfC mainly combined housing and social security policy from those departments. The initials DHSS are still used locally to describe benefits and benefit claimants.

Following a referendum on the Belfast Agreement on 23 May 1998 and the granting of royal assent to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 on 19 November 1998, a Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive were established by the United Kingdom Government under Prime Minister Tony Blair. The process was known as devolution and was set up to return devolved legislative powers to Northern Ireland.

DfC (then DSD) was one of five new devolved Northern Ireland departments created in December 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and The Departments (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

A devolved minister first took office on 2 December 1999. Devolution was suspended for four periods, during which the department came under the responsibility of direct rule ministers from the Northern Ireland Office:

Since 8 May 2007, devolution has operated without interruption, however it was not operating in practice from 2017 to 2020.

Ministers for Communities

Minister Image Party Start End
Office established as Minister of Social Development
    Nigel Dodds NigelDodds.jpg DUP 2 December 1999 11 February 2000
Office suspended
    Nigel Dodds NigelDodds.jpg DUP 30 May 2000 27 July 2000
    Maurice Morrow Official portrait of Lord Morrow crop 2.jpg DUP 27 July 2000 24 October 2001[20]
    Nigel Dodds NigelDodds.jpg DUP 24 October 2001 14 October 2002
Office suspended
    Margaret Ritchie Margaret ritchie.jpg SDLP 8 May 2007 24 May 2010
    Alex Attwood May Day, Belfast, April 2011 (056).JPG SDLP 24 May 2010 5 May 2011
    Nelson McCausland Nelson McCausland (cropped).jpg DUP 16 May 2011 23 September 2014
    Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey.jpg DUP 23 September 2014 12 January 2016[Note 1]
    Lord Morrow Official portrait of Lord Morrow crop 2.jpg DUP 12 January 2016 25 May 2016
Office renamed Minister of Communities
    Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP.jpg DUP 25 May 2016 26 January 2017
Office suspended
    Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin 11 January 2020 15 June 2020[21]
    Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín (cropped).jpg Sinn Féin 15 June 2020[21] Present

Direct rule ministers

During the periods of suspension, the following ministers of the Northern Ireland Office were responsible for the department:

See also

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