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Anderson slams Social ‘shambles’

19 January, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has slammed the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie for slashing social security services while failing to spend her budget.

Speaking today Ms Anderson said:

"The ongoing review of social security services is threatening jobs and services right across the North.

"It is feared that up to 200 jobs could be lost while key face-to-face services are being replaced with a phone service which is clearly not fit for purpose.

"Anyone who has tried to use the phoneline for the Employment Support Allowance will be fully aware of these problems. It is almost impossible to get through and social security staff have told me that they are already completely overwhelmed due to their lack of staff.

"Given that the Minister for Social Development is presiding over a shambolic system and massive spending cuts, I think most people will find it incredible that Margaret Ritchie returned over £25m of her social security budget unspent in the last monitoring round.

"Sinn Féin have already called on the Minister to suspend this review and I am now repeating that call for her to do so.

"Margaret Ritchie has the authority to suspend it and it is clear that if she would manage her Department and budget properly, she would also have the resources."

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