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Northern Ireland Shared Service Plan: a blow for employees and service users

The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) has criticised relocation plans that will leave some health administration workers in Derry with a choice between long commutes or the prospect of unemployment, claiming it will impact both employees and service users.

The response follows the announcement from health minister Edwin Poots that he will press on with plans to centralise administration procedures despite widespread opposition from trade unions.

Commenting on the plan, NIASW manager Carolyn Ewart said: “We are concerned about the potential impact on these workers who, given the current economic climate, will be left with little choice – either leave work and make themselves jobless, and therefore be ineligible for benefits for six weeks, or travel up to four hours daily. It will place a significant level of stress on their family lives and will have cost implications in terms of increased child care.”

The Shared Service plan, which aims to generate savings of £120m over ten years, and projects annual savings of around £17m per year, will see the Western Trust’s administration department, which looks after its payroll, finance, and human resources, centralised to key locations around Northern Ireland. Ms Ewart added: “We also have concerns about the ability of one office to service all the five HSS trusts – recruitment and selection, for example, is a key function and anything that potentially slows this process or makes it more difficult to get staff into vacant posts obviously impacts on the level of service we can offer to our service users.”