Jobs `body blow' for social security staff

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UNIONS reacted angrily yesterday to the Government's announced that it was privatising more than 1,000 jobs in the Benefits Agency and the Child Support Agency.

Angela Eagle, the Social Security minister, told Parliament that two private firms would take over the running of key benefits offices across the UK.

Typists, telephonists, messengers and administrative staff will all be affected by the decision to award the pounds 161m contract to Trillium and Haden Facilities Management Ltd. More than 1,200 jobs will be transferred over the next three years and union leaders warned that the move would lead to lower wages for new staff and poorer services for benefits claimants.

Replying to a Parliamentary Question by Geraint Davies, MP for Croydon Central, Ms Eagle said that only benefits offices in Scotland, Wales and parts of Lancashire would retain in-house staff. "We want to ensure that the public gets the best services at the best price."

However, the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents 250,000 civil servants, attacked the move and complained that the minister refused to meet it before making the announcement.

Barry Reamsbottom, the joint general secretary, said the contract was "a body blow" to its members in the Benefits Agency and was likely to lead to a much lower standard of service.