Deirdre Hargey refutes claims of 'disparity in community make-up' of Housing Executive Derry office
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DUP West Tyrone MLA Thomas Buchanan asked the Minister for Communities to 'inform the House of the steps that she is taking to address the gross disparity in the community make-up of the Housing Executive workforce in the offices in the western area, with particular reference to the offices in Enniskillen, Omagh and Londonderry'.
Ms Hargey replied: "I am not sure what you are referring to. When you say 'make-up', do you mean people's background, or what? The Housing Executive, like any public authority, works to equality regulations and guidelines in its recruitment policies. We ensure that it adheres strongly to those.
"We have ongoing engagement with the Equality Commission and the Human Rights Commission. If you want to talk about something more specific that I am not aware of, I am more than happy to address that directly with you."
The DUP MLA said he would write to the Minister on the issue.
"I have been pressing the Housing Executive's chief executive for a number of years on the religious disparity in the workforce, especially in the grants offices in those three areas. Rather than getting better, it has got worse as the years have gone by. In light of that, does the Minister agree that, in the western area, the Housing Executive is no longer an equal opportunities employer?" he asked.
The Minister strongly refuted the claim, stating: "The Housing Executive is an equal opportunities employer. It has excelled in the job of recruitment. It adheres to the law on recruitment matters. If there is a particular issue that you need to address with me, that is fine. Staff in all our offices are there to deliver a public service - delivering houses - for everybody, no matter from which background or walk of life they come.
"That is the commitment and the ethos of the Housing Executive and why it was established: to ensure that there was not discrimination in housing and to take the politics out of housing. I will defend the Housing Executive in that regard in the time ahead. If you have specifics, then get in touch and we will come back to you directly."