Belfast Telegraph

Stormont cuts blamed as 3fivetwo lays off 50 staff

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland's largest private medical group has laid off 50 staff - blaming the redundancies on cuts imposed by Stormont.

Last month the Health and Social Care Board told health trusts to pause referrals to private clinics to save money.

The 3fivetwo Group, which is based in south Belfast, said it was with "great sadness" that it had to take the decision to cut jobs.

It employs 240 people, and its private sector business remains unaffected.

A spokeswoman said: "These redundancies are a direct result of the halting of public sector contracts arising from widespread cuts in the waiting list initiative.

"It is impossible for the company to carry jobs with no certainty of future contracts, however a full HR support structure is being put in place to help affected staff find new employment."

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that victims of the Troubles and their families are being denied respite breaks and access to education and training because of the spending cuts.

Unionist politicians yesterday united to warn of a crisis in the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS), which is already managing an internal upheaval after the resignations of its top two staff.

A budget reduction from £10m to £8m has left a number of victims' support groups facing a financial squeeze as a result of the Executive's £78m savings plan.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: "Of all people, why should the bereaved have to suffer again? That they should be forced to scrape around for funding now, should be a source of shame for the Stormont administration."

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson added: "Sinn Fein's refusal to implement welfare reform is leading to them being directly responsible for multi-million pound fines which are now coming from budgets, including those to help victims."

But SF's Daithi McKay hit back, saying: "(The Executive's) paper... did not contain any welfare-related cuts. The reductions contained in it would have been much more severe if Jeffrey Donaldson's DUP colleagues had got their way."

A statement from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister said: "Ministers will ensure the needs of victims and survivors continue to be given priority and have therefore committed victims funding to be protected at the baseline of £11.3m per annum.

"Owing to a significant number of new victims coming forward we are proactively managing the budget. VSS will continue to prioritise the needs of individual victims and to protect those victims and survivors with the greatest needs and suffering the most.

"In the tight financial climate all budgets need to be prioritised. Therefore we have asked VSS, the Victims Commission and the delivery groups to seek a 4.4% efficiency in administration."

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