Derry job losses: Fears grow over Social Security Agency posts

Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin.
Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin.

Concern is mounting that up to 30 civil servants at a Social Security Agency office in Derry are to lose their jobs.

Leading politicians s are to meet DSD officials in a bid to ensure that up to 30 civil servants do not lose their jobs in Derry.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan is to meet the Chief Executive of the Social Security Agency Tommy O’Reilly in Belfast over fears that up to 30 jobs could be lost at the Agency’s Lisahally satellite unit on the outskirts of Derry.

And Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has called for a meeting with the Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey after saying staff at the Social Security Agency in Lisahally had been warned of potential job losses.

She said clarity is needed from the Social Development minister on the future of Social Security Agency staff at Lisahally.

Speaking after staff at the office at Lisahally were told that up to 30 jobs could be lost as a result of moving records to a central location, Ms McLaughlin said; “This is a very worrying development for the staff involved with the news that up to 30 jobs are at risk.

“It is my understanding that staff have been told this is a result of a Department of Work and Pensions decision to move customer case files to a central location in England.

“They have been told the storage facility at Lisahally will no longer be operational from April 2015.

“I would question the timing of this announcement as staff have told me that a voluntary redundancy scheme which is currently being offered is due to close on Thursday.

“I would urge management at the Social Security Agency to engage with staff and trade unions to discuss their concerns about this.

“I am also calling on the Social Development minister to clarify exactly what is happening at Lisahally and what it will mean for staff.

“All options need to be explored to offset these potential job losses. #

“The minister needs to look within his department to see if other duties can be carried out at Lisahally to secure these jobs.

“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the minister to discuss this issue.”

Mark Durkan said: “I am very concerned about the serious implications for 30 staff at Lisahally.

“This move by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is no reflection on the performance and efficiency of these workers but stems from the DWP’s deliberate drive to privatise support services.

“There would be little real prospect of getting DWP to reverse their position which is already contracted – and any stay that might be achieved at that end would be vulnerable in their next wave of cuts.

“The Social Security Agency owes it to these staff to try to protect their employment and I therefore want to talk to the Agency about any possible work streams which could be reassigned for them.

“We will also need to look at other possible deployments for the staff, but it needs to be recognised that many of them could not really use offers of posts that have undue travel. Indeed, some of the staff opted into the unit in order to relieve the personal and family strain of travelling to Belfast.

“It would be particularly unfair if staff whose own welfare and considerations in relation to their current posting should fall victim to a policy-driven change which ignores the quality of their work.”

The Department for Social Development has said it will have to cut hundreds of jobs due to spending cuts in the 2015/16 budget.

It said 350 jobs will have to go in the Social Security Agency in 2015/16 and at least 300 in the Housing Executive.

A further 75 jobs are likely to go from central departmental functions.

Senior officials told a Stormont committee yesterday that they hoped to make the job losses through voluntary redundancies.

A senior official told the DSD committee that the job losses in the Social Security Agency could lead to increased fraud and error in the benefits system.

In total, the department needs to find savings of £99m.

Unveiling the budget last month, Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said it was “rooted in tough choices”.

Some other executive departments have already outlined how they will deal with the spending cuts.