Belfast Telegraph

Cuts 'hitting jobless services'

Budget cuts are already hitting a vital lifeline aimed at helping the jobless, an Executive minister has admitted.

Employment Minister Stephen Farry said increased demand is diminishing the quality of his department’s employment service — designed to help people into work.

The service is staffed to cope with around 35,000 — but has a current claimant count of more than 60,000.

And the main back-to-work initiative for adults — the Steps to Work programme — has seen demand rocket over recent months.

In 2009/10, when it was launched, around 18,000 people signed up but the total rose in the last financial year to almost 27,000, an increase of 49%.

In an Assembly response to his Alliance colleague Trevor Lunn, Mr Farry said: “The department has a fixed budget for these services and programmes.

“The rise in demand means that the quality of services on offer is being gradually reduced as the department reduces provision to live within budget.”

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