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High street voucher scheme

WHAT a shambles.
The high street voucher scheme was meant to be much-needed light relief amid the darkness of the pandemic – something to help people and businesses.
While many thousands have received their cards and spent them, the rest are wondering …

WHAT a shambles. The high street voucher scheme was meant to be much-needed light relief amid the darkness of the pandemic - something to help people and businesses. While many thousands have received their cards and spent them, the rest are wondering what the hold up is.

Having applied on the first day, I received an email to say my application had been submitted. There was nothing further until this week when I was informed that I failed the verification process. The personal details I provided did not match up with whatever check systems the team behind the scheme are using.

Having been born and raised in Belfast, and working since 16, I thought my National Insurance number would have been enough for my identity to be verified. But nope, it wasn't and it took the Department for the Economy three weeks to tell me. The email on Wednesday asked me to follow a link and upload two pieces of documentation to confirm my date-of-birth and home address.

As advised, I chose a redacted bank statement and driving license and uploaded photos only to receive a message there had been an `error' with the file type. I phoned the support number, which I found doesn't have a person at the other end, just a list of options, which did not include technical issues. I then called the Shop Local Application line only to be told they couldn't help as they only deal with new applications.

On Wednesday night, amid a frustrating fight with the computer to try to upload the documents, I realised on reading a post on social media that I was not the only person in this position. People affected include pensioners who don't have birth certificates or driving licenses, who now must pay to get them. There are also the not-so-tech-savvy, who don't know how to upload documents.

And, I wasn't surprised to read that some people have been left so frustrated that they have decided that the Department for the Economy can keep the money.

Some of us are being made to jump through all these extra hoops - with just a seven-day window to reply amid the warning that our application will then be "closed".

The whole thing is a mess and the system is clearly not fit for purpose.