The South Belfast Assembly member stated: “The Review of Social Security Offices advocates the effective closure of half the offices in Northern Ireland, and re-deployment of at least 200 staff. The fact the Minister is now having to recruit new staff clearly renders than Review void.
“Any move to close offices and re-deploy frontline staff has nothing to do with efficiency, and everything to do with cuts. The Review takes no account of the objective of having benefits offices which not only ensure people receive money to which they are entitled, but also give them advice to get back into work.
“Far from closing offices, we should be fully resourcing them to act as one-stop-shops not just for those with benefits queries, but also to assist people with training and finding new employment. The rising unemployment figures, particularly newly unemployed, mean that careers advice must be central to the service – a service enhanced, not cut back.”