Around 150 jobs are to be created within the province’s Social Security Agency with the announcement of a contract worth £8 million secured from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to deliver services to claimants in Great Britain.
Up to 150 of the posts will be based in Ballymena with rhe remainder going to the Lisahally Service Centre, Londonderry, which currently already provides services to DWP said Communities Minister Paul Givan.
The total number of posts involved in delivering the new service is understood to be 170 but around 20 of those will be redirected from existing staff.
The Minister made the announcement during a visit to DWP headquarters in London. Minister Givan said: “This new contract is the second to be secured by my department this year on behalf of DWP and underscores their confidence in the quality skills and service our staff in Northern Ireland consistently deliver.
“Providing services to Great Britain on behalf of DWP is now a core part of my department’s business.
“I am confident the new contract will provide excellent opportunities at the sites in Ballymena and Londonderry.”
The contract is for an initial two year period at £4million per annum.
The average salary will be in excess of £19,000 for the 170 posts which will be mainly administrative grades.
The posts will assist in the delivery of Universal Credit and the Benefit Cap across Great Britain on behalf of DWP, and are expected to be fully operational by the autumn 2017.
This is the second major contract to be secured by the Department for Communities, with an announcement earlier this year of 280 jobs to provide additional services to DWP commencing in 2017. One hundred additional staff have been recruited to date.
Welcoming the announcement the MP for North Antrim Ian Paisley said: “I am delighted by this commitment to extend public service jobs to Ballymena, securing 150 new positions in my constituency.
“As MP I have been asking Government to think North Antrim when it comes to job creation and this is a tangible example of the practical outworking of that call.”
In London the Minister met with Minister of State for Employment Damian Hinds MP, and also received a briefing on the implementation of Universal Credit in England.
Speaking afterwards, the Minister said: “I have been keen to meet with Ministers in London to discuss issues of mutual interest and to reinforce our commitment to delivering quality services to claimants both in Northern Ireland and Great Britain on behalf of DWP.
“Today’s discussion with Damian Hinds covered a range of issues and was also a useful opportunity to update him on the progress of introducing the changes to the welfare system in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Givan also represented the NI Executive at a joint meeting with Lord Bourne Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, and Ministers from the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament on faith and integration, community cohesion and race equality.