Strabane will be home to a new government office offering benefits, skills and farming support services.
The new office, to be built on the site of the current Social Security Office on Urney Road, will be the new venue for a modern Jobs and Benefits office and also a new DARD Direct Office.
Work is due to begin on the new build in autumn 2014, subject to planning permission and procurement, with completion expected by spring 2016.
Making the announcement, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to work with our colleagues across government to deliver a joined up service for the people of Strabane. This will be a new, modern building providing a modern end to end customer service, helping to tackle barriers to employment and contributing to addressing poverty and social deprivation in this area.
“Also, those working in these offices will enjoy new, modern surroundings and all the benefits that brings. The wider impact will of course be a welcome boost to the construction industry in terms of the actual building work. My department has done quite a bit of regeneration work in the Strabane area and this will be another step in its transformation. I look forward to visiting the site as work progresses and meeting the staff and customers who will be better served as a result.”
As the new office is being built on the site of the existing Social Security Office, temporary accommodation is now being considered.
Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill said: “I am very pleased that our Strabane DARD Direct office will be part of the new purpose built Government accommodation planned for the town. Co-locating with DSD and DEL is very cost effective for DARD and exemplifies the benefits of a joined up approach. The new Strabane DARD Direct office will provide the full range of services to farmers in the surrounding area by 2016 and will complete the full roll-out of 12 DARD Direct Offices across the north.
“Feedback from farmers about DARD Direct has always been very positive and I want to ensure that customers in the North West benefit in the same way as others have. The office in Strabane will be a welcome addition to the DARD customer service provision.”
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: "I welcome the construction of a new Jobs and Benefits Office in Strabane. A purpose-built facility which will offer a bespoke, work-focused service for the people of Strabane and surrounding areas is a very positive development."
Notes to editors:
1. The Outline Business Case was approved on 10 October 2013 by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP). The Jobs and Benefit Project was initiated in 2001 as part of the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform and Modernisation Programme. Twenty-seven out of thirty-five offices were completed and were operational, however due to budget implications the remaining eight offices were not completed and the project was suspended and subsequently closed, following ministerial approval, as capital funding was not made available in Budget 2010.
2. Nevertheless, the Department for Social Development (DSD) and Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) Ministers confirmed their intention to progress delivery of the Jobs & Benefits service on an office by office basis, as opportunities arise, and subject to the necessary funding being secured.
3. Staff currently working in the Strabane Social Security Office and Jobcentre, will be co-located in the new offices. All staff have been advised of the plans.