NI High Street Voucher Scheme: Concern for elderly as scheme opening date to be announced

As an opening date for the NI High Street Voucher Scheme is set to be announced, concerns have been expressed for the elderly and vulnerable.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 4:47 pm

Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons revealed this afternoon (Monday) that he will reveal the start date of the scheme tomorrow (Tuesday).

It had been thought the scheme would open on September 12.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly is concerned that some people could struggle to access the scheme and has called for urgent action from Ministers.

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for a £100 pre-paid card through the NI Direct website.

While applications can also be made over phone, Mrs Kelly said older and vulnerable people could struggle to apply for the voucher.

The Upper Bann MLA said: “While the High Street Scheme Voucher is a welcome initiative, there are serious concerns that the registration process not only fails to cater to vulnerable people but will likely disadvantage all those without online services or ability to navigate them.

“Several elderly and vulnerable constituents have expressed concern that the online application may present barriers to them accessing this voucher.

“Older people have been among those worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and their potential exclusion from this scheme would add insult to injury. Many older people are not comfortable with digital forms and some will not have the support from friends or family members to complete this application. An alternative mechanism must be established.

“The SDLP has written to the Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey urging her to liaise with the Economy Minister to ensure vulnerable people can avail of this scheme. We have also asked Minister Hargey to ensure pensioners and vulnerable people can access the scheme automatically, with her department already holding their information. They have a huge database of individuals details and this shouldn’t need to be replicated via the High Street Voucher application.

“The registration process doesn’t need to be so convoluted and more thought should have been given to supporting the most vulnerable in society.”

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