DfE briefing on the High Street £100 Voucher Scheme

13 Aug 2021 Déarbhla Sloan    Last updated: 14 Sep 2021

NICVA recently held a webinar with the Department for the Economy to provide an overview of the High Street £100 Voucher Scheme due to launch on 27th September.

Tommy O Reilly, on behalf of DfE, provided high level details on the policy objectives behind the scheme, the emerging proposals for the roll out of the scheme as well as addressing areas of further research and work that his team are currently undertaking.

Policy objectives for the High Street voucher Scheme

The primary policy objective behind the rollout of the £140 million scheme is to help stimulate the local economy as outlined within the Departments Economic Recovery Action Plan. The scheme aims to support local businesses in their recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, as well as in turn promoting and supporting jobs in local retail and hospitality businesses.

The timing of the scheme is to target a period of spending downtime that is expected to occur between the reopening of the retail and hospitality sectors at the end of June and prior to the major Christmas spend in December.

Key elements of scheme

The Executive and Department are encouraging everyone to register and take part in the scheme.

In order to receive your voucher, you must:

  • Register online on NI Direct. You will be presented with an information page on the High Street Scheme and a button to launch the registration process.
  • 8 pieces of information will be requested during the registration process - Name, Address, DOB, Gender, Disability, National Insurance Number, Driving Licence number, mobile phone number and email address. Please note that all fields are mandatory except driving licence number. Inputting your driver licence number will assist the checking process for your application.
  • You can register to complete an application on behalf of a limited number of other people however you must have their permission and their personal details.

Following completion of the online registration process, you will receive an email confirming the receipt of the application. The information provided will first be checked against electoral register database followed by Driver Vehicle Licencing Agency. This is an automated process with no access to your personal information.

Once your identity has been confirmed the details required to complete the process will be sent to the pre-paid card provider and you will receive an email to inform you that the registration process is now complete and when you should expect to receive your card.

If you are unsuccessful in the first phase of checks then your identity will be checked against a further suite of government databases. If you identity is confirmed then your details will be forwarded to the pre-paid card provider and you will receive a confirmation email. If your application is unsuccessful, you will be informed and directed to the appeals process.

The £100 Pre-Paid Card

Following a successful application to the scheme, you will be provided with a £100 pre-paid card which can be used in any local business with debit/credit card technology. The card can be used in card terminals that include a swipe facility as well as a pin facility.

Once you receive your card you will be required to verify it by SMS, phone or on the computer before you are able to use it. You will be able to use it alongside other forms of payment subject to the merchant’s agreement.

You can use the card to order and pay over the phone to purchase services from local businesses however you will not be able to purchase online service or products, to pay for financial services or to purchase legal services.

High Level Proposed Timelines

The High Street Voucher scheme will be underpinned by legislation, and the legislative approval for the scheme ends on 31st March 2022.

The application portal will be launched on 27th September with the first tranche of cards to roll out on 4th October with a further four tranches expected after. The telephone service will open on 11th October.

The online portal and telephone service will close on 25th October. This will also be the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to register for the pre-paid £100 card.

The scheme will close on 30th November and the pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.

Further details

Tommy highlighted that work for the scheme is still ongoing and they are aware of areas of concern in respect of those who perhaps do not have the details required to access the scheme i.e. a home address, a mobile number etc. The High Street Voucher Scheme Team are currently engaging with a number of groups specifically relating to Homeless People, Asylum Seekers, those with a Visual Impairment and Elderly people in order to ensure that the scheme is accessible to all who meet the criteria.

NICVA would encourage voluntary and community sector organisations who have any specific concerns about the accessibility of the scheme to contact the Department as soon as possible. This can be done by email to [email protected].

Key points from Q&A

Will those who do not have a driving licence or access to their National Insurance Number, for example those living in a refuge or living in NI on a partner’s Visa, be excluded from the scheme?

The Department want to ensure that all those who are eligible for the scheme have access to it. They will be providing information to people and organisations on how they can potentially access their National Insurance Number. DfE are aware of a few specific groups that may have difficulties gaining access to the scheme therefore they are currently engaging with several organisations to better understand how to make the scheme accessible to all who meet the criteria.

Will support organisations be able to help those they represent, particularly those who are more vulnerable in our society, register for the scheme?

The policy has not yet been finalised however the current status is that family members can support up to two other people in registering for the scheme using the same mobile number. You will be able to help register other people on the scheme as long as their mobile number is used during the application process. At present, the policy only allows for three applications per mobile number.  This is to prevent potentially larger scale fraudulent applications.

What can I spend my card on?

The pre-paid card can be used with a retailer or in hospitality in Northern Ireland that accepts cards as a method of payment. You can use it to purchase a range of items from a new piece of home décor at the local craft shop to groceries at the local supermarket and even to purchase home heating oil. In many cases it will be up to whether the retailers you wish to use it with has the card facilities available.

Can I donate my card to a charity?

No, you will not be able to use the card to donate to a charity however that does not necessarily mean your receipt of the pre-paid card cannot benefit a charity. For example, you may want to engage with a charity and ask if there are any products that you could purchase for them using your pre-paid card or donate to the charity using your own funds and then use the card to replace those funds during your next weekly shopping trip. 

A set of Frequently Asked Questions will be placed on the departmental website in due course.

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