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NI High Street Voucher scheme: Advice group being called “all the time”

An advice group has said it is getting phone calls “all the time” with issues regarding the High Street Voucher scheme.
Bob Stronge from Advice NI told BBC News NI that some people’s Spend Local cards are being rejected and others still haven’t receive…

An advice group has said it is getting phone calls "all the time" with issues regarding the High Street Voucher scheme. Bob Stronge from Advice NI told BBC News NI that some people's Spend Local cards are being rejected and others still haven't received theirs. The HSV scheme is part of a range of measures aimed at stimulating economic recovery by providing businesses with a financial boost, helping them recover from the pandemic induced economic downturn.

Mr Stronge explained how it could "quite embarrassing for people" when their card is rejected and how his own has been turned down three times. He told the BBC: "We're hearing stories... [and] certainly even some acquaintances and friends have been telling me that that they're trying to use the card but it is being rejected. "There's something obviously around the technology.

"There are difficulties, I think, just for people using that and I don't know whether the systems, whatever platforms they're using, are not quite working so well. "We're getting phone calls into advice agencies all the time now about that and also about the verification problem." A woman named Angela from West Belfast told the BBC that her son received his card, but her and other family members who applied at the same time still haven't.

She added: "My son did himself, my husband and my daughters all at the same time. "He received his about two or three weeks ago but we haven't - we did get the verification but we still haven't received anything. "Every time I phone [to ask about it] I'm getting an answering machine and I give up.

"It's the length of time that you're given now to spend it - what if I don't get it before the time's up to spend it?" One caller to BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme said he and his wife had tried to use their cards in Belfast but both had been rejected. Another person claimed his had been rejected in every shop.

Co Down man John White from Castlewellan told the BBC he applied for the card from hospital the day after the scheme opened. He said he was told his national insurance number had already been used. "Yesterday I had to send in proof that I was who I said I was.

"I sent that in thinking I would get a confirmation email but there's been no word back yet saying they've actually received it. "I don't work, I spend a lot of time in hospital and that GBP100 to me is like GBP1,000. "I'm just absolutely scared of missing it and I'm wondering for people like myself who have tried to activate their cards: is there going to be an extension for me to spend that money?

"I understand that they're going to extend it for another two weeks but realistically, even if all that information goes through, you're talking another fortnight before I get that card. "So that means I have a very short window to spend that money and I need that much [time]," John added. Roisin McAliskey from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the scheme had been having a positive effect for businesses.

She told BBC News NI: "We've had quite good feedback from the FSB membership on it.

"I suppose it will be the case that it will be the negative stories that people want to share and tell you about."

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