Northern Ireland news

Equality Commission investigate decision not to include under-18s in High St Voucher Scheme

The High Street Voucher Scheme ended at midnight on Sunday.

AN investigation into the Department for the Economy's decision to exclude under-18s from the High Street Voucher Scheme has been launched by the Equality Commission.

The investigation follows a complaint from a young person who alleged the department failed to comply with its approved equality scheme when deciding to offer the cards only to those aged 18 and over.

The deadline for spending the £100 voucher passed at midnight.

The department had previously carried out an equality impact assessment into the exclusion that it published in September, stating the "impact regarding age is judged to be minor". It also suggested there were regulatory concerns about issuing the cards to under-18s.

The complainant is being assisted by the Children’s Law Centre in outlining concerns to the Equality Commission.

Claire Kemp, Policy Officer at the Children’s Law Centre said: "Decision-makers have a duty to ensure the decisions they make do not adversely impact or discriminate against sections of the population. This includes children and young people. To ensure they avoid making decisions that discriminate they have to carry out an equality screening exercise at the earliest opportunity. In this case it was clear the Department for the Economy failed to do that.

"We’re happy to assist this young person in their complaint and are pleased the Equality Commission has authorised an investigation. The department was in the position to publicly announce the High Street Voucher Scheme in February 2021 but evidently failed to carry out an equality screening exercise until the young person complained.

Meanwhile, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that funding to tackle Covid in the north is to be doubled.

The executive will now receive £150 million and Mr Sunak said: "We will continue to listen to and work with the devolved administrations in the face of this serious health crisis."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news