Mid Ulster DUP MLA Keith Buchanan has moved to reassure benefits workers that they will not be made redundant after leaked plans outlining his Ministerial colleague’s intention to close some offices.
But he did admit that the department will be carrying out a review of local offices to see if “they are fit for purpose” and that “staff who have to move will be offered suitable posts in other parts of the department”.
Mr Buchanan told the Mail he held a meeting with Department for Communities (DfC) Minister Paul Givan after being contacted by “constituents and concerned employees from local Jobs and Benefits and Social Security offices”.
This news came after the Mail’s report on DfC plans to close up to 20 offices across Northern Ireland and relocate jobs now based in Mid Ulster, to Belfast.
Currently the department operates Jobs and Benefits/ Social Security services out of offices in Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt.
But under leaked DfC plans, only Dungannon would retain some posts - while staff in Cookstown and Magherafelt would be expected to relocate. A prospect, with which, they are not very happy.
But Mr Buchanan said: “The minister reassured me that the long term future of the Magherafelt Jobs and Benefits office is secure and that it will have an important role in the new Universal Credit service which is planned to be rolled out next year in NI.
“I also discussed with the minister the details of the review being carried by his department as to whether the local social security offices are ‘fit for purpose’ in the types of services which they will be providing in the future,” he added.
“He has committed to a public consultation exercise on any proposals to close any social security office and I was reassured by his commitment that no member of staff would be made redundant and that staff who have to move will be offered suitable posts in other parts of the department.”