The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland has expressed disappointment that some care home residents are having difficulty applying for their Spend Local vouchers because of issues around verifying their identity. Eddie Lynch said he has received a small number of complaints about care home residents facing issues in obtaining their Spend Local voucher. He said: "My office has been in direct contact with the Department for the Economy and I have been assured that no one has been rejected for the Spend Local card.
"I have been told about the range of documents applicants can upload to support their application, including a letter from their care home. "I am aware that many of these residents may not have the access, or the skills to provide all this detail online, so I would urge carers and loved ones to support them through this process if they have permission to do so." Mr Lynch added: "I will continue to liaise with the Department to ensure everything is being done so that the voucher is accessible to everyone who is entitled to it.
"Fortunately, any reports of this nature that have been brought to my office, have been resolved through contact with the Department for the Economy." On Thursday, it emerged also that some women in Northern Ireland have had their Spend Local voucher applications declined because their birth certificate name doesn't match their married name. The married women said they had submitted multiple items of documentation to prove their identity but were still turned down.
Applications closed for the scheme at midnight on Monday, October 25, and the cards will have to be used before the end of November. There have been over 1.43 million applications, the Department for the Economy revealed this week. Economy Minister Gordon Lyons is facing calls to extend the period for people to spend their GBP100 vouchers to take account of delays in issuing the cards.
Mr Lyons previously stated that every eligible person should get a minimum of four weeks to spend their GBP100 voucher. Commenting on the dispute, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, Geraldine McGahey said the scheme appeared to be causing problems for specific groups such as some married women and older people who may not have required forms of identification such as a driver's licence or a valid passport. "There is potential for discrimination against some of these groups who may experience less favourable treatment than others, in this case on grounds of their sex," she said.
"We are writing to the Minister for the Economy to remind him of the importance of adhering to the Section 75 (equality) duties and asking him to review the deadline set for applying for and using the card to ensure some groups of people are not adversely impacted and left out. "Importantly this situation also highlights the lack of protection for older people who are currently not protected against discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services, unlike their counterparts in the rest of the UK and Ireland." Anyone who finds themselves or a family or friend in a similar predicament, can contact the Department's customer services on 0800 046 8330 - lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
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