There are 140,000 people in Northern Ireland who are not yet eligible for the High Street Voucher scheme. The Economy Minister has said that the Northern Ireland Electoral Register will be used to verify the addresses of people who apply to use the scheme when it is launched later this year. The High Street Voucher Scheme will see everyone over the age of 18 in Northern Ireland provided with a GBP100 voucher to spend in brick and mortar shops and businesses.
The revelation was made after Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald asked Economy Minster Paul Frew, if those applying for the scheme would have to be on the electoral register to be eligible. In response to her question, he confirmed that the Electoral Register would be used as a database to confirm eligible applicants, and that 140,000 people, included 40,000 aged 18 to 21, who were not accounted for on it. Mr Frew said: "A successful launch of the scheme is dependent on having access to trusted databases not only to enable to efficient verification of applicants but also to identify and stop fraudulent claims before they are passed for processing to the pre-paid card provider.
"During the development phase of the scheme, a range of options were evaluated to determine the best means to enable the distribution of the pre-paid cards. An application process was identified as the preferred option whereby those deemed elgible will be asked to register for a pre-paid card through a dedicated online portal. "The information provided at registration will be crossed checked against a range of government data-sets to confirm the authenticity of the applicant.
"A data sharing agreement is currently being put in place with the Electoral Office for the use of the electoral register as the primary verification source as it is already a legal requirement for over 18s to be on the electoral register, which should allow around 90% of applications to be approved in real time and pre-paid cards issued to the applicant's home address. "However, there will still remain a sizeable portion of the adult population in Northern Ireland who will not registered on the electoral register when the scheme is launched. Currently there are an estimated 140,000 adults not registered on the electoral register with around 40,000 of these in the 18 to 21 age group.
"There is therefore a need to access other trusted databases to authenticate these individuals should they wish to register for a pre-paid card.
Progress is being made with a number of government department to utilise their data sets."