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Call for Evidence on a Plan to Eliminate Plastic Pollution in Northern Ireland

Minister Poots is pictured with Helen Tomb, Live Here Love Here Manager, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Méabh and Rónán Hook from Mill Strand Integrated Primary

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA has launched a Call for Evidence on a plan to eliminate plastic pollution in Northern Ireland and a new grants scheme aimed at tackling marine litter.

The Call for Evidence will seek responses from a wide range of stakeholders on the challenges and opportunities that exist in eliminating plastic pollution, as well as seeking examples of best practice and sources of expertise or evidence.

In addition to this, a new grants scheme has been set up making £175,000 available in 2021/22 for organisations and groups to avail of. The aim of the scheme is to help prevent marine litter entering our environment as well as removing this litter from coastal and riverine areas. This will help protect our waterways and marine areas, as well as improving marine biodiversity and the health and wellbeing of our communities.

It is hoped the scheme will run for a further three years with up to £675,000 available by 2025. The scheme is funded by DAERA and will be administered by Live Here Love Here.

Minister Poots said: “Plastic pollution is a scourge on our environment and has become one of our most pressing environmental challenges. I believe we need to take strong action and address the throwaway culture that exists around plastic and the pollution that comes from this.”

The Minister continued, “The New Decade, New Approach agreement contains a commitment by the Executive to develop a plan to eliminate plastic pollution and this Call for Evidence and subsequent development of my Department’s plan will deliver on this commitment. This will assist Northern Ireland’s contribution to the UK’s net zero target and will help the shift to a circular economy by keeping plastic in the economy and out of the environment.”

Minister Poots concluded, “I am also pleased to announce today the launch of a new £175,000 grants scheme to tackle marine litter. This scheme will help to facilitate the prevention and removal of this type of litter which is entering our environment, polluting our rivers and seas. By working together we can tackle the scourge of plastic pollution, thereby making Northern Ireland a cleaner, greener environment to live in.”

Minister Poots is pictured with Conal Murphy from Mill Strand Integrated Primary. Photo Credit: Aaron McCracken
Minister Poots is pictured with Conal Murphy from Mill Strand Integrated Primary. Photo Credit: Aaron McCracken

Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful added: “The pernicious effects of litter, particularly plastics, on marine animals is now well understood. With plastics moving up through the marine food chain the consequences for us may end up equally harmful. So this timely grants programme, funded by DAERA and delivered through the Live Here Love Here collaboration, will ensure Northern Ireland can play its part in eliminating marine litter pollution. I would encourage all eligible organisations to make use of this fantastic opportunity to help people do the right thing and put litter in a bin.”

The public Call for Evidence opens on 28th June 2021 and will run for a 14 week period until 5pm on 1st October 2021

The Tackling Marine Litter Grants Scheme opens for applications on 30th June 2021. For further information please visit the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful website.

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Applications for Spend Local Pre-Paid Card will Open from 27th September

Announcing the next phase of the High Street Scheme, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons with Milana Surova of Memento florists on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announced a number of important dates in the rollout of the High Street Scheme (HSS).

On a visit to Belfast’s Ormeau Road – which was recently announced as Retail NI’s High Street of the Year – the Minister announced that the online portal which will enable anyone aged over 18 and over to apply for the £100 Spend Local pre-paid cards – will be open from 27th September until 25th October.

He also announced a number of other key dates. They are:

  • Week commencing 4th October – First tranche of cards will issue to those who have successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
  • 11th October – Telephone service will open to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
  • 25th October – High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services will close.
  • 25th October – the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
  • 30th November – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.

The Minister said: “Now is the time to get ready to Spend Local. I am delighted to announce that the online portal will open to receive applications in just under two weeks with the first tranche of Spend Local pre-paid cards to issue the week beginning 4th of October.

“The objective of the £145million High Street Scheme is to boost local businesses following the drop in footfall brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. By giving everyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland a pre-paid card worth £100 to spend in local high businesses, we will encourage many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and services.

“I would encourage everyone who is over 18 by 25th October this year, to apply for their card between 27th September and October 25th. We expect demand to be high so please be patient if the online portal is busy just after it opens. It is important to remember that everyone will have at least four weeks to spend their card.

“By applying, receiving and ultimately spending your Spend Local card in local businesses such as shops, hospitality and other services before November 30, you will be doing your bit to support your local businesses.”

The Minister was joined by Chris O’Reilly, Chair of Ormeau Business Association, Simon Hamilton of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Glyn Roberts of Retail NI and local traders.

Welcoming the scheme, Mr O’Reilly said: “We would like to welcome the Minister to the Ormeau Road – the High Street of the Year. Like many other local high streets across our towns and cities, the Ormeau Road is home to a diverse range of shops, restaurants and pubs which have felt the impact of the pandemic through a reduced number of customers coming through our doors. The High Street Scheme will deliver just the boost we need right now. I am sure I speak for many traders across Northern Ireland when I say we are looking forward to seeing customers using their Spend Local cards.”  

Mr Hamilton said: “Belfast Chamber is delighted to support the launch of the Department for the Economy’s Spend Local card. It has been an immensely challenging period for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and this £100 Spend Local card will give people the opportunity to actively help those businesses. It is also a great way to support everyone who works in our local shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and other services. This scheme will provide a much needed and very timely boost to those hard-hit sectors and make a massive difference to businesses as we emerge from the pandemic and edge towards recovery.”

Announcing the next phase of the High Street Scheme, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons joins Michael Goggin of Michel’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

Mr Roberts said: “Retail NI has been a strong advocate for the High Street Scheme as a stimulant to support economic recovery. This £100 pre-paid Spend Local Card will be a much needed welcome spending boost for many retailers and our High Streets as whole. Our sector has suffered significantly during the pandemic and the High Street Scheme has come at the right time. I encourage consumers to spend this card with local retailers to boost our economy.”

From 27th of September to 25th of October applicants will be asked to apply through NI Direct.  For verification purposes in order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant will be asked to provide:

  • name;
  • address;
  • age;
  • gender;
  • disability status;
  • national insurance number;
  • email address; and
  • telephone number. 

Applicants will also have the option of including a driving licence number to enable verification. Once the applicant has completed the registration process their information will be checked against a number of government databases to verify their identity.

The portal is expected to be extremely busy in the days after it opens. Applicants are reminded that the online portal will be open for four weeks and everyone will have a minimum of four weeks to spend their card.

Applicants should receive their Spend Local card within 7-10 days of making their application. When an applicant receives their card, they will need to verify the card through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a pin, before they can start to use it for contactless payments.

The cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland. They cannot be used online or for gambling or some financial and legal services.

The telephone support service will open on 11th October. The later opening of the telephone service has been implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opens on 27th September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who do not have access to, or are not able to use, the internet.

A public information campaign across television, radio, press and social media will begin on 16th September to keep applicants up-to-date with the scheme

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Young People Aged 12 to 15 to be Offered Covid-19 Vaccine

People aged 12-15 in Northern Ireland will be offered a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine shortly.

This move follows the unanimous advice to ministers from the four UK Chief Medical Officers.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I have carefully considered the advice provided by the four UK Chief Medical Officers and have accepted their recommendation to expand the vaccination programme to all those aged 12-15. This move will help protect young people from catching COVID-19 and is expected to prevent disruption in schools by reducing transmission.”

In line with the recommendation of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government sought the views of the four UK CMOs on the wider issues that are relevant to the health of children.  All those aged 12 to 15 in Northern Ireland will now be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and parental consent will be sought prior to vaccination. For those who are part of an ‘at risk’ group, they will receive two doses, eight weeks apart, in line with JCVI advice.

The government has accepted the advice of the four UK CMOs and the HSC is preparing to deliver the programme which is expected to be a schools-based vaccination programme, which is the successful model used for vaccinations including for HPV and the annual flu programme. They will be supported by GPs where necessary. Consent forms for vaccination will begin to be distributed via schools shortly.

Most school-aged children aged 12 to 15 are expected to will primarily receive their COVID-19 vaccination in their school with alternative provision for those who are home schooled or in secure services.

The Minister concluded: “I thank the UK Chief Medical Officers for their expert advice. Our healthcare system stands ready to extend the vaccination programme to this group with the same dedication and urgency that they have delivered all other parts of the vaccination programme.”

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