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Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many jobcentres are operating in (a) non-rural and (b) rural areas of Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (86318)

Maria Eagle: The Department helps employers fill their vacancies and assists jobseekers to find employment through a network of 35 offices (25 Jobs and Benefits offices, JBOs where a joint work-focused service is provided with the Social Security Agency, and 10 jobcentres) located in towns and cities throughout Northern Ireland.

There are eight offices serving the city of Belfast, two in Londonderry, and one each in the cities of Armagh, Lisburn and Newry. The remaining 22 offices are located in each of the main rural towns of Northern Ireland.

In order to deliver the Government's policy on welfare-to-work the Department is working in partnership with the Social Security Agency to provide a joined-up work-focused jobs and benefits service. Some 25 of the planned 35 offices have been rolled out as JBOs. It is expected that rollout of the remaining 10, Andersonstown, Ballymena, Ballynahinch, Bangor, North Belfast, Cookstown, Downpatrick, Newcastle, Newtownards and Strabane, will be complete by March 2008.