This week marks the 9th annual Farm Safety Week and Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons have met with farmer Derek Robinson whose son came close to losing his life when he was overcome with slurry fumes.
Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said: “Since January 2015 there have been 35 fatalities on farms in Northern Ireland and that is just too many. It is vital that we encourage all those working in the farming industry to stop and think about farm safety. By taking some simple precautions we can reduce the number of people killed and injured on our farms.
“As someone who has spent a lifetime working in the farming industry, I am well aware of the satisfaction and joy working on the farm can bring, but I also know that, all too quickly, it can turn into a nightmare if you aren’t careful with your equipment and your surroundings.
“I would encourage everyone to take the time now, to be extra careful and vigilant. It is vital that farmers pause and think about what they are doing before beginning work with livestock, machinery or slurry.”
Farm Safety Week is an awareness raising event that sees the Farm Safety Partnerships, Farm Safety Foundation, Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority Ireland joining forces to drive the fundamental message of safety within the agricultural community home.
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons added: “Farm Safety Week is significant in helping to focus attention on farm safety and the measures that can be taken to ensure everyone is kept safe and out of harm’s reach.
“Derek’s story is important in that it highlights the fact that while many farms are work places they are also family homes bringing additional risks and considerations. With school summer holidays upon us it is critical we are even more mindful of children on the farm and ensure all is done to avoid accidents and injury.”
Applications for Spend Local Pre-Paid Card will Open from 27th September
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.”
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:
- 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
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.”