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Assembly to debate scrapping of social security review

26 February, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has welcomed the opportunity next week to debate the controversial decision by DSD MNinister, Margaret Ritchie to to review social security agency services with a view to replacing face-to face contact with an automated telephone service - which would threaten jobs and services in Derry.

Martina Anderson said:

"On Monday, the Assembly will debate a motion calling for the withdrawal of the Strategic Business Review of the Social Security Agency which has the potential to be extremely detrimental to workers and service users alike."

"Face-to-face contact for social security claimants will be removed as services are centralized while hundreds of workers face relocation or even redundancy.

"Sinn Féin has already raised these concerns with Minister Ritchie and her response was less than encouraging, stating that the Agency 'faces a very challenging period'.

"However that isn't good enough. We cannot tolerate any dilution of service to people on benefits and neither can we contemplate the potential of further job losses or relocations out of Derry.

"Following the successful 'Project Kelvin' campaign it is imperative that not only do we retain the present level of Public Service jobs in Derry but that we increase our lobbying efforts to have more public sector jobs decentralized to this city. I believe that if we allow Margaret Ritchie's department of Social Development to remove social security jobs from Derry, it would greatly damage our case and send out entirely the wrong message.

"Now with confirmation of the 'Telehouse' for Derry it is essential that we maintain the momentum that that generated and build on our capacity to accommodate large numbers of Civil Service jobs, not reducing it.

"Therefore, I am calling on all members to support the motion and I would particularly urge the Minister to state categorically that no jobs will be removed from Derry as part of her plans. I am also repeating Sinn Féin's call for her to scrap the review of the Social Security Agency altogether."CRÍOCH

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