Northern Ireland news

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons: How the High Street Scheme will work

The £145 million High Street Scheme will give everyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland a pre-paid Spend Local card worth £100 to spend in local businesses.

The cards - which will feature the 'Spend Local' logo - can be used in all businesses which accept credit and debit cards for payment. It cannot be used to purchase goods or services online, to purchase some financial and legal services or for gambling purposes.

The High Street Scheme is a key element of my Department's Economic Recovery Action Plan. It will give a boost to businesses and bring customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors which were hit hard by the pandemic.

The online portal for the scheme (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/high-street-scheme-spend-local-pre-paid-card) will open on 27 September for four weeks to allow you to apply for your Spend Local card. It is should take around five minutes to complete the application process.

When you apply on the portal for a Spend Local card, you will be asked to provide eight pieces of information. These will be: name; address; age; sex; disability status (specifying a visual impairment or blind); national insurance number; email address and telephone number.

You will also be asked to include your driver’s licence number for a check against the DVA database, but this will be an optional requirement. I would encourage everyone who has a driving licence to record their licence number on the form as it will help speed up the check on your information.

We expect demand to be high so please be patient if the online portal is busy just after it opens.

Once you have completed the application process you will be notified by email or SMS that your information has been received and is being processed.

Family members or friends will be able to apply on behalf of another person, if you have their permission and providing you are in possession of all of their personal details required to make an application on their behalf.

Your information will be checked against a number of government databases to verify identity. If no match is found in the updated Electoral Register, then the DVA Licencing database will be used followed by the Department for Communities databases.

If a positive verification is achieved, an email or SMS message will issue to you confirming your application and providing an indicative date for when you should expect to receive your card.

Where your data cannot be verified through these government databases, there will be a facility to upload identity documentation and have your identity manually verified. You will also be provided with an opportunity to appeal the decision, if your identity cannot be verified through any of these checks.

A telephone service is due to open on October 11 to support applications from people not able to access or use the portal.

The first tranche of cards will issue the week commencing October 4 to people who have successfully applied and had their personal details verified.

When you receive your card, you will need to activate it through a portal or computer-operated phone system and make your first payment using a pin, before you can start to use it for contactless payments.

Every eligible person should get a minimum of four weeks to spend their £100.

The High Street Scheme portal and telephone service will close on October 25 and this will also be the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for their £100 pre-paid card.

On November 30 the scheme will close and the Spend Local cards will cease to be valid.

A public information campaign across television, radio, press and social media will keep applicants up-to-date with the scheme.

For more information on the High Street Scheme, go to https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/high-street-scheme-spend-local-pre-paid-card.

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