Updated: Jan 11
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is seeking further powers to establish a SECOND financial assistance scheme for struggling taxi drivers in Northern Ireland.
The Minister has written to the First and deputy First Minsters seeking a further Determination & Designation under the Financial Assistance (Northern Ireland) Act 2009, to facilitate the development of a second financial assistance scheme for taxi drivers.
This follows the Department for Infrastructure being granted new powers in November 2020 to bring forward a financial support package for the taxi sector.
On 13 November a £14million Taxi Driver Financial Assistance Scheme was launched for two weeks, closing on 27 November.
The scheme was accessed by over 3,500 eligible cabbies, each handed a one-off payment of £1,500.
Controversially though, the grant was made dependent on the drivers' expenses incurred during the period 22 March 2020 up to 30 September 2020. This meant drivers who cancelled or downgraded their taxi vehicle insurance to save on costs during the pandemic missed out on the first grant.
Minister Mallon said: “This pandemic continues to present very real and worrying challenges for many people. The financial assistance scheme was designed following feedback from taxi industry representatives that drivers were struggling with fixed overhead costs in the face of a significant reduction in customers.
“Over 3500 drivers have already benefited from the first scheme, with the remaining applications continuing to be processed as quickly as possible. However some drivers were not able to benefit from the first scheme. I recognise and am sympathetic to the fact that, while some of those drivers did not have continuous insurance and could not therefore avail of the financial support, they still incurred overheads for part of the year.
“I am also mindful that the current and ongoing restrictions on retail/hospitality continue to impact on all taxi drivers financially making it difficult for them to cover the costs they continue to incur in doing their job.
“I will be meeting with the sector next week to work with them on delivering another scheme urgently to help with their ongoing overhead costs at this difficult time.
“This scheme is in addition to the support available from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme which provides 70% or 80% of average previous profits and the newly self-employed scheme. I am committed to helping those in need, particularly when taxi drivers are being excluded from some of the support that other businesses are being provided with because of the impact of the increased restrictions.”