Economy Minister Gordon Lyons today announced that the portal for applications to the High Street Scheme is now open.
The Minister 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-
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.
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.
2. From 27 September to 25 October, applicants can apply for the Spend Local card through the portal on nidirect.
For verification purposes in order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant will be asked to provide:
- disability status;
- National Insurance number;
- email address; and
- telephone number.
Applicants will also have the option of including a driving licence number to enable verification. Once the applicant has completed the registration process their information will be checked against a number of government databases to verify their identity.
The Department is required under Section 75 to monitor the implementation of its policies which includes collecting data on age, sex and disability.
3. 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.
4. The cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland. They cannot be used online or for gambling or some financial and legal services.
5. The telephone support service will open on 11 October. The later opening of the telephone service has been implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opens on 27 September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who do not have access to, or are not able to use, the internet.
6. 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.