Tracey Quail, President of Downpatrick Chamber of Commerce, said: “Due to the proposed closure of the Downpatrick Social Security and NIHE offices, we, the Downpatrick Chamber of Commerce are inviting the public to a consultation meeting.
“These job cuts will impact heavily on the community and the local economy. The removal of the work force will therefore have an adverse effect on local businesses as well.
“Attending this meeting will be MP’s, MLA’s, public representatives and Councillors, and local business owners. The format will question and answer.
“Without your support the local Downpatrick area will suffer. It will literally affect everyone in some shape or form. We really need the as many people as possible to turn up and back the staff whose jobs are on the line.”
No jobs will be lost as a result of this initiative says DSD
A spokesperson for the Department for Social Development said: “An initiative to improve customer service within the Social Security Agency, called Customer First, is currently being implemented in a number of offices across Northern Ireland.
“The Downpatrick Social Security Office is one such office and while the initiative will involve moving some back office functions to another social security office, it will also result in improvements to the service provided by the front office to customers in Downpatrick.
“The Agency has confirmed that the Downpatrick Social Security Office will not close as a result of this initiative, nor will any other social security office in Northern Ireland. No jobs will be lost as a result of this initiative.
“Customers who wish to have an enquiry dealt with face to face at the Downpatrick Social Security Office however, can continue to do so. The Agency is committed to maintaining a strong network of front offices across Northern Ireland and each office will be properly resourced to ensure they continue to provide the current excellent service to customers.
“The roll-out of the Customer First initiative, which was first piloted in April 2010, is essential to ensure that local Social Security services across Northern Ireland remain viable in a modern and accessible way. The changes brought about by Customer First are not only helping to meet the changing needs of our customers, but also to pave the way for the introduction of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms in the coming years.
“While the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s current office in Downpatrick will be closing, its services and staff will be relocating to new accommodation in Downpatrick in the Autumn.”