DfE briefing on the High Street £100 Voucher Scheme
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.
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.
In order to be eligible to apply for a pre-paid card, a person must be living in Northern Ireland and be aged 18 or over on or before the closing date for applications
Click here to apply for the High Street Voucher Scheme.
The Executive and Department are encouraging everyone to register and take part in the scheme.
Those eligible for the High Street Scheme, should apply online for a faster application.
Once you press the apply button you will be asked, as a security measure, to enter your email address. A link will then be sent to your email inbox which will take you straight to the application form.
On the application page you will be asked to provide the following 8 pieces of information:
- Disability status (specifying if you have a visual impairment),
- National Insurance Number,
- Driving Licence number,
- Telephone / mobile phone number
- email address (this will be pre-populated)
Please note that all fields are mandatory except driving licence number. Inputting your driver licence number will speed up the checking process for your application.
Once you have submitted the form, you will receive an email confrming that your application has been received.
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.
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.
Following a successful application to the scheme, you will be provided with a £100 pre-paid card (this could take several weeks) 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.
Before using your Spend Local pre-paid card, you will need to activate it through an automated telephone service or by SMS. The first transaction can only be made using a PIN, thereafter by contactless payments. 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.
- 27 September 2021 – High Street Scheme Portal opens to allow people to apply for their pre-paid cards
- 4 October 2021 – First tranche of cards issue to people who have successfully applied for the pre-paid card
- 11 October 2021 – Telephone Application service will open to support applications from those not able to access or use the portal
- 25 October 2021 – High Street Scheme Portal and telephone service close and this will also be the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to apply for their £100 pre-paid card
- 19 December 2021 – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid. Any balance remaining on the card after this date will be returned by the card provider to the Department for the Economy.
- 31 March 2022 - Legislative basis for the scheme comes to end and all fnancial accounting for spend should be completed
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].
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 are available and can be accessed on the Departments website here.
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