A high street voucher scheme designed to boost activity in businesses impacted by the Covid pandemic is set to launch in Northern Ireland, with applications now open.
The £145m scheme will allow everyone aged 18 and over to apply for a £100 "spend local" card which can be used in shops before the end of November.
Here’s what you need to know.
How can I apply for the high street voucher scheme?
Applications can be made on the NI Direct website for the next four weeks until 25 October.
The cards are then expected to arrive between seven and 10 days after you apply, and can be used in any shop with a card machine.
However, they cannot be used online or for gambling or legal services like penalties.
You will need to have an email address to log on to the online portal for security purposes.
The application process will ask for the following pieces of personal information:
- date of birth
- disability status (specifying if you have a visual impairment)
- telephone number
- driving licence number (optional)
A phone application service for the voucher scheme will open on 11 October for anyone who does not have access to the internet.
Vouchers will need to be used by the end of November 2021.
With it expected that more than one million people will apply to the voucher scheme, the chief executive of Retail NI has suggested people wait a few days before applying in order to stop problems on the website.
Glyn Roberts, Retail NI Chief Executive, said: “If people can wait a few days before making their application, hopefully we can avoid any delays or problems with a rush on the online portal and they will receive their voucher on a timely basis.
“With a scheme of this ambition and size we are bound to experience some problems and would urge shoppers to be patient.
“As the scheme opens and consumers are thinking about how to spend their voucher, we would strongly encourage them to use with local independent retailers. 70p in every £1 pound spent with an independent retailer is recycled around the economy, supporting local producers and manufacturers."
Is a similar scheme in place elsewhere in the UK?
The £100 high street voucher scheme is only in place in Northern Ireland and is not currently set to be implemented in England, Scotland or Wales.