Job fears at the dole office

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Staff at the Jobs and Benefits Office in Coleraine fear that more staff cuts will be made when the new universal credit benefit scheme is introduced.

Two years ago, a number of staff from the Artillery Road office were redeployed due to over staffing. Staff now fear up to 50 jobs could be axed with the centralisation of universal credit processing.

One member of staff we spoke to explained that although no date for the new benefit scheme has been finalised for Northern Ireland, already three offices have been chosen as processing centres - Belfast, Londonderry and Newry.

“We are aggrieved that these sites have been chosen over us in Coleraine. The staff in Coleraine are in a good position to take universal credit processing.

“We have been told that we will become a fraud hub when the new scheme comes in, but that will only be of benefit to higher grade staff.

“When universal credit comes in, we will be left with a frontline office - and that would only require about ten staff, that leaves another 50 with nothing.

“The staff in Coleraine have worked really hard, we have a highly trained telephone section, which the government invested over £2million in.”

The staff member added that with the DVA job losses in Coleraine, it was time for more civil service jobs to be brought to the area.

“The building in Coleraine is owned by the Department, there is plenty of room for other departments to be brought to Coleraine. Our staff our well trained, better than other centres - it’s time for us to step up the campaign to get public sector jobs for Coleraine.”

DUP MLA Adrian McQuillan has been contacted by a number of staff: “This is a very worrying time.

“We cannot have further jobs sucked out of Coleraine. I have spoken to DSD Minister, Nelson McCausland and he is to come back to me on the issue.”

A spokesperson for the Social Security Agency said “ To ensure the successful introduction of Universal Credit, the Agency has adopted a phased approach which included detailed analysis for the initial roll-out of Universal Credit.

“It is too early to predict how many Service Centres will be required to administer Universal Credit when it is fully rolled out.

“However, we can confirm that there will be additional sites.

“At this time no existing location has been ruled out.”