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Communities Minister thanks social security staff for their hard work and commitment during COVID-19 crisis.

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BT Coleraine

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA has thanked social security staff for the role they continue to play in ensuring essential services are provided for those most in need during these challenging times.

Speaking as she visited staff at Andersonstown Jobs and Benefits office, Deirdre Hargey said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff for the hard work they continue to do to ensure the most vulnerable in our society get access to the support and advice they need during this difficult time.

“Our benefit phone-lines have been dealing with a record number of calls. For example yesterday, the Discretionary Support Service received 9,000 calls and over the last two weeks Universal Credit Centres received over 20,000 new claims, with over 5,000 telephone enquiries about Universal Credit yesterday alone. Other working age benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Job Seeker’s Allowance and Social Fund are dealing with an overall increase of 34% in their daily calls. This is unprecedented and demonstrates the scale of the issues local people are facing.”

The Minister continued: “My Department will continue to do all it can to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and I am determined to ensure that those most in need – affected workers and their families, those with caring responsibilities, low income families, people with disabilities and our elderly, continue to receive the support they are entitled to.”

Concluding, the Minister asked people to be patient during this difficult time: “It may take longer to answer calls to our benefit lines but our staff will continue to ensure that all calls and queries are dealt with as soon as possible. This is a difficult and uncertain time for all and I am proud of the hard work, effort and commitment of all of our staff.”

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