Covid: What do we know about the voucher scheme for NI?

There are plans for a voucher scheme to boost spending on high streets in Northern Ireland, but what do we know about what it means for households?

It is understood Stormont is aiming to roll out the scheme to every adult in Northern Ireland – that could mean those over the age of 16 or 18.

Those eligible would be given a prepaid card worth £75-£100.

The exact amount would depend on factors including administration costs and whether, as hoped, the £95m allocated by Finance Minister Conor Murphy is topped up.

It is intended that the cards are used in shops, restaurants and hotels at the start of 2021.

The cards are not intended to be spent online, but rather to provide economic stimulus for bricks and mortar businesses who have suffered due to lockdown restrictions and loss of footfall.

It is hoped the scheme will be administered in such a way that boosts independent retailers most in need of support.

Department for the Economy officials are working out the numbers and how best to implement the scheme, which is similar to one put in place in Jersey.

Finance Minister Diane Dodds has said the scheme is “about hope”.

She said: “It is a hopeful announcement in that, not only are we talking about economic stimulus for the high street, but coupled with increased testing and the hope of the roll out of the vaccine, I am absolutely sure that people are looking for more hopeful and normal days ahead.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has urged the retail sector to take steps to manage the flow of customers when people are encouraged to return to shops.

“I’m less concerned about managed crowds queuing to access the retail sector,” he said.

“But certainly what we need to do is prevent crowding indoors in busy retail outlets when the scheme is deployed in the new year.”