High Street Scheme

The Department for the Economy will deliver the ‘High Street Scheme’ (the Scheme) which is part of a series of Covid-19 recovery programmes designed by the NI Executive.

The Scheme

The Scheme will provide an opportunity to apply for a £100 pre-paid card to spend in local businesses as part of a range of programmes aimed to stimulate economic recovery.

The card can be used in any local business that accepts card payments. It cannot be used online or for gambling, or paying for certain legal or financial services. 

The Scheme aims to boost demand in our struggling towns, city centres and providing much needed support to our local businesses following the easing of Covid restrictions by the NI Executive and the gradual opening up of the economy.

Eligibility criteria

To apply for the Scheme, you must be:

  • resident in Northern Ireland
  • aged 18 or over on the 25 October 2021
  • not in prison

For how your eligibility will be tested, please see High Street Scheme - assessing eligibility.

For the Scheme residency determination, please see High Street Scheme - resident determination.

Applying for the Scheme

You can apply for the scheme on the nidirect website from 27 September 2021. See High Street Scheme - "Spend Local" pre-paid card

    Privacy Notice

    The Scheme Privacy Notice can be viewed at: Privacy Notice - High Street Scheme

    Frequently Asked Questions

    If you are considering applying for the Scheme and require more detail on the eligibility criteria, application process and evidence required to apply please view:

    Policy background

    Since the pandemic started, research has shown that the spending habits of the public have changed and the Scheme aims to reverse the trend of customer online spend and encourage the public to physically return to and to support their local business to ensure that they can continue to trade.

    As such the policy objectives of the Scheme are:

    • to boost the Northern Ireland economic recovery by injecting a £140 million financial package to stimulate spend in the local businesses
    • to provide a stimulus to enable members of the public to purchase goods and services from local businesses that have lost revenue through the various periods of lockdown in 2020-21
    • to inject funding to the business community that will lead to an increase (through a multiplier effect) in the overall economy
    • to protect local jobs in the local businesses

    Research to inform the Scheme was carried out early in 2021. This can be found at Research to inform the Northern Ireland High Street Scheme

    The Scheme is part of the Economic Recovery Action Plan (ERAP) published by the Department on 25 February 2021.

    As part of the ERAP, the NI Executive agreed to a ring-fenced funding allocation of £145m for the Scheme on 1 April 2021, and agreed that the Scheme be taken forward under a Ministerial Direction. Minister Dodds sought Executive agreement for the Ministerial Direction and this was subsequently secured on 29 April 2021. Minister Lyons has subsequently confirmed that he is content to continue to implement the scheme under the Ministerial Direction.

    Legislative background

    The Department for the Economy did not have the legal powers to introduce the scheme, hence the need for the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, to designate the Department for the Economy in accordance with the Financial Assistance (Northern Ireland) Act 2009.

    This Act requires the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, to determine if:

    1. an exceptional circumstance exists; and
    2. that it is desirable to provide financial assistance to prevent, control or mitigate any aspect or effect of those circumstances; and
    3. that such assistance ought to be provided in accordance with a scheme.

    The Act contains provision for the First Minister and deputy First Minister following such a determination to designate the Department for the Economy to make the Scheme by regulations. They made this determination and designation on 4 August 2021.

    The Department has made regulations to deliver the Scheme: The High Street (Coronavirus, Financial Assistance) Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021

    Impact assessments

    To inform the Scheme, a range of impact assessments have been carried out.

    The Equality Impact Assessment is undertaken to help make an assessment of the likely impact on equality of opportunity and good relations. 

    The Small and Micro Business Impact Test (SAMBIT) that is designed to support the development of the Regulatory Impact Assessment and in so doing help focus the minds of policy makers and officials on the specifics of what the regulatory impacts and effects on small and micro businesses potentially will be. 

    The Rural Needs Impact Assessment (RNIA) is designed to support the development of the Regulatory Impact Assessment and in so doing help focus the minds of policy makers and officials on the specifics of what the regulatory impacts and effects are on rural areas. This is a legal requirement under the Rural Needs Act (Northern Ireland) 2016. 

    The Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) is a key tool in delivering better regulation supporting the government's aim of only regulating when necessary and when it is, to do so in a way that is proportionate to the risk being addressed and to deregulate and simplify wherever possible. 

    Card use exclusions

    It cannot be used online or for gambling, or paying for certain legal or financial services. A full list of exclusions is at:

     

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