High Street Scheme: guidance for businesses

News article

Advice for local businesses on the High Street Scheme

The NI Executive has allocated £145 million for the High Street Scheme. This initiative is part of the Department for the Economy's Economic Recovery Action Plan to tackle the consequences of the pandemic for local businesses. 

The High Street Scheme (HSS) aims to provide practical support in helping businesses recover from the pandemic by stimulating consumer spend to support local towns and city centres.   

Its purpose is to provide an economic stimulus to boost local businesses and protect local jobs by injecting £140 million into the local economy. 

To meet this objective, a Spend Local pre-paid card worth £100 will be available to all eligible individuals aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland to purchase goods and services from local businesses.

Advice for businesses

Under the High Street Scheme, there are no qualifying criteria for local businesses.

The card can be used by customers in the same way as a bank or debit card. A business will need a card reader to process payments from the Spend Local pre-paid card. Customers can use the card in person or by phone.

Before using the card for the first time, the customer will need to activate the card through an automated telephone service or by SMS. The customer's first transaction will be through a supplied PIN, and further transactions possible through contactless payment.

The pre-paid card cannot be used for online purchases, gambling, or certain financial and legal services. Access the full list of card use exclusions.

The first Spend Local pre-paid cards are expected to be available in early October 2021. The scheme will officially close on 30 November 2021, when all cards will be deactivated, and no more spend on the card can occur.

The timelines for the opening and closing of the scheme are:

  • 27 September 2021 – High Street Scheme portal opens to allow people to register for their pre-paid cards
  • 4 October 2021 – First cards issued to people who have successfully registered for the pre-paid card
  • 11 October 2021 – Telephone registration service will open to support applications from those not able to access or use the portal
  • 25 October 2021 – High Street Scheme portal and telephone service close, and this will also be the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to register for their £100 pre-paid card
  • 30 November 2021 – High Street Scheme closes to any further pre-paid card payments being made.

Local businesses can read more on the High Street Scheme.

First published 14 September 2021