High Street Voucher Scheme opens – Support for local independent retailers

High Street Voucher Scheme opens – Support for local independent retailers
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons with Michael Goggin of Michel’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

Some initial reports of delays in receiving confirmation emails happened as the High Street Scheme went live on Monday 27th September – with applicants being advised to check their spam folders too.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “This is a big day in the roll-out of the High Street Scheme. I am delighted to announce that the portal for applications for the Spend Local card has now opened.”

The Minister once again reminded applicants that the portal will remain open until 25 October and that there will be enough time for everyone to apply, receive and use their Spend Local card. Applicants can register for their card at http://nidirect.gov.uk/spend-local

He said: “Around 1.4 million people are entitled to apply for their Spend Local card, so we expect the portal to be extremely busy in the first few days. That is why it is important to remember that the portal will be open for four weeks and that everyone will have enough time to apply for their card. So please be patient.”

The Minister reminded applicants to have their key information to hand when they come to apply. 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.

He said: “Please ensure that you have all your required information ready when you apply, including your National Insurance number and driving licence if you have one. There will be enough time for everyone to apply, receive and use their Spend Local card. The applications portal is robust and ready and it will be able to handle over 1.4 million applications over the course of the four-week period. But we expect early demand to be extremely high. Therefore, by being patient and ready with your information, you will be helping yourself and everybody else.”

Minister Lyons also warned people to be wary of scams and emphasised that the Department will never ask anyone for their personal banking details.

He said: “Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals who will look for every opportunity to steal from others. It is important to state that the Department will never ask for anyone’s personal bank details. Anyone who receives any contact which they think may be a scam should contact Action Fraud.”

The High Street Scheme is part of the Department’s Economic Recovery Action Plan. Its objective is to boost local businesses following the drop in footfall brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Retail NI has urged shoppers to consider making their application later in the week to avoid a rush on the first day – to reduce pressure on the online portal. Retail NI’s Glyn Roberts said:

“If people can wait a few days before making their application, hopefully we can avoid any delays or problems with a rush on the online portal and they will receive their voucher on a timely basis. With a scheme of this ambition and size we are bound to experience some problems and would urge shoppers to be patient.

“As the scheme opens and consumers are thinking about how to spend their voucher, we would strongly encourage them to use with local independent retailers. 70p in every £1 pound spent with an independent retailer is recycled around the economy, supporting local producers and manufacturers.”

*Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts is attending the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, where with the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland he will address a fringe meeting on post pandemic high streets and the High Street Voucher scheme.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim has called for local businesses to be supported through the High Street Support Scheme. Councillor William McCaughey said it was “an important time for us to give back. I strongly welcome the launch of the High Street Support Scheme. It is a much-needed tool that will certainly benefit local businesses on their road to recovery.

“Since the start of the pandemic, all of our retailers have shown incredible patience, determination and resilience throughout what has undoubtedly been their most challenging period ever coupled with the economic hardships that have come with it.

“They have continued to go above and beyond for our community and work around the clock to provide essential services for our citizens, in a safe and welcoming environment. It is an important time for us to give back to our local businesses by encouraging everyone to shop local and support our local economy as we all come together on the road to brighter days ahead.

“There is perhaps no better way to do so than with the introduction of the High Street Support Scheme.”

Key dates in the rollout of the High Street Scheme:

  • 27 September to 25 October – Applications portal will be open.
  • Week commencing 4 October – First tranche of cards will issue to those who have successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
  • 11 October – Telephone service will open to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
  • 25 October – High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services will close.
  • 25 October – The last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
  • 30 November – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.

When an applicant receives their card, they will need to verify the card through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a PIN, before they can start to use it for contactless payments.

The High Street Scheme Spend Local pre-paid card will be able to be accepted by shops and businesses which can accept credit and debit cards for payment. It cannot be used to purchase goods or services online.

Action Fraud can be contacted on 0300 123 2040 or at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk