The initiative which aims to support local businesses recover from the impact of COVID, was to provide a prepaid card worth £100 for all eligible individuals over 18. However, the registration process is solely online and requires applicants to create an NI Direct account.
Mr Durkan has received the backing of his colleagues on the Communities Committee and has written to the Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey asking her to intervene to ensure pensioners and other vulnerable individuals can access the scheme.
The Foyle MLA commented: “While the High Scheme Voucher is a welcome initiative, I have serious concerns that the registration process not only fails to cater to vulnerable people but will likely disadvantage all those without online services or literacy.
“Several elderly and vulnerable constituents have contacted my office in the last few weeks that the online application may present barriers to them accessing this voucher.
“Older people have been among those worst affected by the COVID pandemic and the potential exclusion of vast swathes of that cohort from this economic stimulus scheme would add insult to injury. Many of the older cohort are not computer literate and some will not have the support from friends or family members to complete this application. An alternative mechanism must be established.”
Mr Durkan added: “I have written to the Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey urging her to liaise with the Economy Minister to ensure vulnerable people can avail of this scheme. I have also asked Minister Hargey to ensure pensioners and vulnerable people can access the scheme automatically; whose details her department already holds. 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.”