Hazzard slams Social Security proposals for South Down

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Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MLA has launched a scathing attack on the Department for Social Development’s (DSD) plans to remove social security processing services from South Down. Speaking after a meeting with Social Security officials in Newcastle, the local Assemblyman said he was “totally bemused by departmental plans to strip much needed services from the constituency.” Hazzard said, “Following the recent announcement that a plan to locate a Benefits Processing Centre in Downpatrick was being scrapped and staff would now be forced to re-locate to Co Armagh, I have been in contact with employees and customers alike who are in a complete state of shock. “Haven been refused a formal meeting with Minister McCausland and even senior DSD Officials, I have been left with no choice but to meet with local management in an effort to highlight the severe damage these changes will have on the local economy.” The South Down Assemblyman continued, “I was informed this morning that the arrangements are currently subject to DSD Equality Screening and in all likelihood will not be subject to a further in-depth Impact assessment. I am incredibly suspicious of this position and will be writing to the Minister once again to demand that the aggressive cut of public sector jobs in South Down is suspended until a full and proper Equality Impact Assessment is carried out. “As the third largest constituency, with a population of more than 110,000, it is absurd that South Down will not have such much needed services and indeed I believe it is wholly inequitable.” He added, “I simply do not accept the Agency’s excuse that a suitable site does not exist in Downpatrick to proceed with the original plans – if the public sector hub at the Downshire is suitable for the PSNI, the Housing Executive, and the new Down District Council facilities then it should be perfectly able to accommodate the Social Security Agency.”
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