Supermarket delivery scheme for vulnerable 'not coming to Northern Ireland'

People self-isolating for several months due to underlying health conditions find online delivery slots are `taken for some time'. Picture by Mal McCann

A SUPERMARKET home delivery scheme is `not coming to Northern Ireland' - despite large chains being willing to provide special slots for the elderly and vulnerable.

Bosses are understood to have been in negotiations with the Stormont executive to set aside `bespoke' online delivery slots for at risk groups during the coronavirus pandemic.

Older people and those with underlying health conditions in Northern Ireland who have been told to go into self-isolation are struggling to book online delivery slots - despite the mega-chains scaling up their capacity.

In England, Tesco has identified 75,000 existing customers who will now have home delivery slots created for them after the British government gave the retail giant an initial list of 110,000 clinically vulnerable and isolated people.

However, no such provision is in place in Northern Ireland, despite supermarkets indicating they are willing but need to wait for the executive to co-ordinate the scheme.

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Instead vulnerable people desperate for grocery supplies are depending on the kindness of neighbours, friends and family.

Last night, the Department for Communities told The Irish News the England scheme will not be introduced.

"The online system being used in England can’t be used here, as we have different health service database arrangements here," a spokeswoman said.

"We will continue to work in partnership with the big retailers to develop localised arrangements as soon as possible.

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"Our aim is to ensure that the most vulnerable customers can access services.

"Alongside this, the local business community and local voluntary groups have stepped up and are offering home deliveries."

Alliance assembly member John Blair urged them to find a solution as soon as possible.

He has been contacted by people self-isolating for several months during the Covid-19 pandemic due to underlying health conditions who find online delivery slots are "taken for some time".

"In England, the government worked with supermarkets to give priority access for online food deliveries for those deemed as vulnerable.

"We need to see a similar scheme for Northern Ireland.

"It would make the lives of those vulnerable people considerably easier, especially if they do not qualify for the executive's food package scheme.

"This is a trying time for everyone but it is important we pull together and do what we can to help those we can. Priority being given to vulnerable people for online shopping deliveries would be a big step in that direction."

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