Jobs and Benefits Office: Omagh

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 5th December 2016.

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Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 5th December 2016

T1. Mr McCrossan asked the Minister for Communities for an update on the future of the jobs and benefits office and its staff in Omagh. (AQT 606/16-21)

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

I will meet representatives from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council at 4.30 pm today. Obviously, I want to ensure we provide services right across Northern Ireland; it is important that we do not have just a Belfast-centric approach to providing these services. For example, I have been able to make positive changes for Armagh, which was losing services. Additional jobs have been brought to Northern Ireland by the Department of Work and Pensions. I will meet the Minister of State at Westminster next Monday, to explore further opportunities for work that Northern Ireland can do.

Omagh is making the case that it is an area that needs to have services provided. I am very mindful of the case put forward by elected representatives.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answer. Can the Minister outline why the Omagh jobs and benefits office did not get the IPCC jobs, considering it has a telephony system already in place? Is the Minister concerned that a number of the current employees in Omagh failed to get jobs in other offices, which clearly shows that these staff have been disproportionately impacted the punitive welfare cuts and the rationalisation of the welfare state?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

Obviously, Omagh's telephony is an asset and places it well should there be opportunities in the future, and I am actively looking at that.

We have identified where the key hubs are going to be for welfare reform. Newry, Foyle and Dungannon are going to be major centres, and all of these places are outside of Belfast, because I am keen to make sure services are delivered across Northern Ireland.

Through any change process, there is going to be change. Even in the absence of the welfare reform agenda taking place, there is always a normal cycle of assessment about the caseloads that exist within these offices, and as that changes, the staff complement changes as well. I appreciate this is a time of change, but ultimately, it is important we respond to the changes that are coming and provide the most effective and efficient service possible.

From listening to other Ministers, I know they are facing pressures in the Department of Health and the Department of Education, and I have pressures upon my budget across a plethora of areas. I want to ensure the administration costs are at a minimum and we maximise what we can achieve on the front line. Services will be delivered using the best possible practice we have to maximise all of those things.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton Speaker

Question No 2 has been withdrawn.