It is only a matter of time until the High Street Voucher Scheme launches in Northern Ireland. The Department for the Economy has only confirmed the voucher scheme will start on a date after Sunday, September 12. It is designed to help businesses recover from the impact of the pandemic, and so the card will not be able to be used for online purchases.
The scheme has been described as important by those in the hospitality sector, who were severely hit by lockdown restrictions. The voucher money must be spent by November 30, as the department does not want to displace the spending that would normally happen in the run-up to Christmas. While an exact date for the scheme is yet to be announced, applications are due to close on October 11.
So, it can only be a matter of time until the scheme gets going.
Who is eligible?
The much-anticipated scheme will make everyone over the age of 18 in Northern Ireland eligible for a GBP100 voucher to spend. Some politicians did call for the voucher to be offered to older teenagers too. In a statement in late August, Sinn Fein economy spokesperson and East Derry MLA Caoimhe Archibald said: "The voucher should also be available for 16 and 17 year-olds, young people in this age group are considered to be of working age, they have national insurance numbers, some have left education and are in full-time employment, others have caring responsibilities.
"Young people have been badly impacted by Covid, many worked in retail and other frontline services or volunteered in their local communities, and they should be included in this scheme. "In terms of the aims of the High Street Voucher Scheme, it is about getting people back into their local retailers, improving consumer confidence and ultimately supporting local businesses and the local economy. "Including 16 and 17 year-olds in the High Street Voucher Scheme will support those aims, it will bring another cohort of people back into shops and other service providers - and help our local businesses and economy."
Department for Economy officials have since confirmed the vouchers will not be offered to those in this age group.
How do I apply for the card?
When the online portal opens, 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, NI Number, Driving Licence number (optional) and mobile phone number and email address.
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 Licensing 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 primary method of verification will be the electoral register.
If you are confirmed on the register, you will receive your card. If you are not on the register, other databases will be used such as DVLA and DfC and finally an appeals process if you are not verified through those. A phone application process will also be put in place for those who can't do online application, while there will be the ability to apply on behalf of someone else with their permission.
Work is being undertaken by DfE to ensure groups who may not be on the electoral register such as asylum seekers, people who are homeless or don't have a permanent addresses, are able to have an application processed.
How can I use the voucher?
Following a successful application to the scheme, you will be provided with a GBP100 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.
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