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Northern Ireland High Street Voucher: Department for Economy answers questions on long-awaited scheme

Northern Ireland High Street Voucher scheme: Everything you need to know

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The Department for the Economy have responded to a list of frequently asked questions on the lon…

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The Department for the Economy have responded to a list of frequently asked questions on the long-awaited High Street Voucher Scheme. Applications for the scheme, which will see everyone over the age of 18 in Northern Ireland eligible for a GBP100 Spend Local card, will open from Monday, September 27 until Monday, October 25. With 1.4 million people expected to apply for the voucher, Minister Gordon Lyons has said that he expects demand on the online portal to be very high in the days after its launch.

For verification purposes, all applicants will be asked to provide their name, address, age, gender, disability status, National Insurance number, email address and telephone number. Once an application has been processed it will take between seven to 10 days before you receive your card. The first cards should be received the week commencing October 4.

As many of us wait for the scheme to launch next week, the Department for the Economy have issued a list of frequently asked questions along with their responses.

What is the timeline for the roll-out of the High Street Scheme?
  • September 27 - High Street Scheme portal opens to allow people to apply for their pre-paid cards.
  • October 4 - First tranche of cards issue to people who have successfully applied for the pre-paid card.
  • October 11 - Telephone application service will open to support applications from those not able to access or use the portal.
  • October 25 - 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 GBP100 pre-paid card.
  • November 30 - Scheme closes to any further pre-paid card payments being made.
  • March 31 2022 - Legislative basis for the scheme comes to an end and all financial accounting for spend should be completed.
What form will it come in?

It will be a pre-paid card which not only looks and feels like a credit and debit card, it is also used in the same way.

Who is eligible?

Adults of Northern Ireland (aged 18+) and who are resident in NI.

How are applications made for the scheme?

Those eligible for the scheme should apply online. 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.

The form requires the following information:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • Your full name
  • Your address and postcode
  • Your date of birth
  • Your sex
  • Telephone number
  • Disability including whether you have a visual impairment
  • Driving Licence Number
  • Your email address will be prepopulated

With the exception of the driving licence number, all these data fields are mandatory. However, the Department are encouraging everyone with a driving licence number to fill in their driving licence number, as it will speed up the application process. Once you have submitted the form, you will receive an email confirming that your application has been received.

Will the scheme affect benefits or be subject to tax?

The GBP100 HSS pre-paid card will be disregarded for the purposes of benefit payments and tax.

How will it help the economy?

During lockdown people spent less in local businesses and more online, which had a detrimental knock-on effect for local businesses and the wider economy.

The idea is that giving each eligible person the card to spend over a short-term period, it will provide businesses with a shot in the arm to get them going again after the pandemic-induced economic downturn. It is hoped that the public will not use the card to supplement their 'normal' spending - like simply using it on their shopping - as then no extra money will be injected into the economy, and local businesses and communities will not benefit.

What is my personal information collected as part of the application process being used for?

This scheme is being delivered by DfE and it will have access to the information you provide as part of your application; both as a means to assess your eligibility and also to conduct any post scheme governance assessments. The collection of data under the scheme is being undertaken in accordance with Data Protection legislation and is being overseen by the Information Commissioners Office and the Departmental Data Protection Officer.

As part of the application eligibility criteria checks for this scheme, DfE will also use the data you have provided to check against data held by the Electoral Offce, Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) and other government departments.

Information will only be held for the purposes of the scheme and monitoring of the policy outcomes.

What happens if you make an application outside of the eligibility criteria?

If you make an application which is outside the eligibility criteria established for the scheme, for example:

  • On behalf of another person, without their knowledge and consent
  • Containing information which you know to be incorrect
  • Containing any material misstatement or false declaration
  • By or on behalf of any prisoner (convicted and on remand) who are incarcerated throughout the duration of the scheme

You may be subject to action to recover the money and may render yourself liable.

Has an Equity Screening been completed for HSS?

Yes, the HSS was subject to an Equality Screening Process which has been published on the Department's website.

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