NI voucher scheme: Economics Department denies discrimination against married women with card over £ 100


The Department of the Economy has denied discriminating against married women under the High Street Voucher program.

It comes after a number of married women complained that they were unable to use their birth certificates to verify their identity and only had three days to offer an alternative.

Reported to the BBC’s Stephen Nolan show, a woman shared her frustration with the delay.

Appellant Maureen in Strabane said she was told her birth certificate could not be accepted and was then given a three day window to send an alternative.

He was then told that the Ministry’s email inbox was full.

“I am also a frontline worker and have worked throughout the pandemic,” she said.

“But because we’re in the private sector we’re going to lose the £ 500 and now I’ve lived in Northern Ireland and worked my whole life and I’m going to lose that £ 100.

“It’s really unfair and it’s not just me, there are a lot of people I know in the same situation.”

A spokesperson for the department said, “No one has been turned down for a Spend Local card and there is no discrimination in the implementation of the program.

“There are instances where the details provided in the application form do not match those contained in the databases used to verify applications, and we have requested additional information to verify the application.”

They continued, “The ministry applies maximum flexibility on the information that can be provided to confirm that an applicant is eligible for a Spend Local card. When there is a genuine attempt to provide information, there is a clear link between the request and the documents provided, and a reasonable level of confidence that the person is eligible, they should be verified.

Equality Commission chief commissioner Geraldine McGahey commented on the dispute.

“It goes without saying that all political decisions of the government must be taken with legal equality obligations in mind,” she said.

“We raised our concerns about the equality impact assessment carried out for this policy in September. We were very disappointed that the screening was not carried out at the earliest opportunity in the policy development process and questioned the possibility that the screening actually informs development. or the delivery of the High Street Scheme.

She added: “The screening lacked data or information to determine the impacts on the equality grounds of Article 75 and, therefore, the assessments that there were no impacts for the equality. Most of these reasons were inconsistent.

“A more robust and timely equality assessment would have allowed the Department to examine and consult in depth the potential impacts on equality. “

She said the program appeared to pose problems for specific groups such as some married women and the elderly who may not have IDs such as a valid driver’s license or passport required by the program.

“There is a potential for discrimination against some of these groups who may receive less favorable treatment than others, in this case because of their gender,” she said.

“We are writing today to the Minister of the Economy to remind him of the importance of respecting the obligations of Article 75 and asking him to review the deadline set for the application and use of the card in order to ensure that certain groups of people are not harmed and excluded.

“It is important to note that this situation also highlights the lack of protection for older people who are currently not protected against discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services, unlike their counterparts in the rest of the Kingdom. United and Ireland. “

Meanwhile, Ulster Union MP Andy Allen has called on Economy Minister Gordon Lyons to extend the period during which people can spend their £ 100 vouchers after delays in issuing cards.

“Colleagues and I continue to be contacted by a considerable number of voters, many of whom applied at the start of the opening of voucher applications, who still have not received their local spending card. “, did he declare.

“This is against the backdrop of the thousands of people who have been contacted because they could not be verified by the automated process, asking them to provide additional evidence. Many of them were told he It will probably take several weeks before they do receive their card.

Mr Allen said it was now “clear” that the Minister could not guarantee that everyone would have four weeks to spend their £ 100 and that it was time to reconsider the end date.


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