Plans to slash Strabane Social Security Office jobs and services lambasted
Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has lambasted the response by DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie to the latest series of questions he has submitted to her in relation to the future of Strabane Social Security Office jobs and services.
Pat Doherty said,
"In response to the latest series of questions submitted to Margaret Ritchie on this issue she stated that only 10 staff (as an indicative figure) would remain at the local DHSS office on the Urney Road if the proposals contained in the SSO Strategic Business Review, which she has endorsed, are implemented in full. Staff at the local office dispute even this official figure maintaining that only between 3-6 staff would remain in this so-called 'front office only services' arrangement which would be basically to facilitate 'signing on' and phone and fax arrangement.
"If these proposals are not stopped in their tracks then between 50- 60 staff at the Urney Road office will be forced to transfer to these other SSO locations in the Western area that have been designated as centralized processing centres not to mention the likelihood that some of these jobs could be lost altogether in this so-called Strategic Business Review process. This is not to mention the transfer from Strabane in recent years of the Social Fund Grants Section to Omagh and the Pensions for over 60's to Derry.
"I have also challenged the DSD Minister on the equality implications of these proposals to further downgrade the Strabane DHSS office given that the District already has the lowest base of public sector jobs in the six counties but was disappointed in her response which merely stated: "The Equality Impact Assessment element of the consultation will reflect the fact that the key objective of the Strategic Business Review is to secure the future delivery of modern, efficient and more accessible service delivery for customers of the local office network".
"These proposals would mean a move away from face-to-face contact to a telephone service akin to a call centre and given the complexities of the benefits system, especially in terms of forms filling, the difficulties that will arise for claimants are clear.
"The detrimental socio-economic consequences of these proposals for everyone, not only in Strabane District but throughout the six counties as a whole, are clear and must be vigorously opposed. I, will also be challenging these proposals during the current consultation and I would encourage as many groups and individuals as possible in the District to do likewise by making a written submission (before January 29th 2009)." ENDS
Note to Editors
Address for consultation responses is: to: Social Security Agency, Strategic Business Review team, 1st Floor, Lighthouse Building, Gasworks Business Park, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT 3JB, or by E-mail to: [email protected]