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Cost of temporary staff doubles at Department of Education in Northern Ireland

Financial outlay doubles over three years, sparking concerns over sustainability and employment practices.

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Northern Ireland has seen a significant increase in the number of temporary and agency staff.
Temporary staff should not become standard practice.
The number of agency workers fluctuates over the year.

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According to The Belfast Telegraph, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland has seen a significant increase in the number of temporary and agency staff over the past three years, leading to a substantial rise in financial expenditure. Data released by the Department of Education indicates that £2.8 million has been allocated over the last five years to address staffing shortfalls within the organisation.

In the fiscal year 2019/20, the department employed 17 individuals on temporary contracts or through agencies, amounting to a cost of £314,941. Although the staffing level remained consistent at 17 in the subsequent two years, expenditure surged to £547,955 in 2020/21 and further escalated to £567,357 the following year. The number of temporary and agency staff witnessed a notable increase in 2022/23, with 25 positions filled at a cost of £702,149. While overall expenditure was reduced to £697,047 in the last fiscal year (2023/24), the number of employed individuals rose to 37.

The number of temporary and agency staff witnessed a notable increase in 2022/23, with 25 positions filled at a cost of £702,149.

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan expressed concern, stating, “While recognising occasional necessity, the reliance on temporary staff should not become standard practice. The department should prioritise permanent recruitment efforts, not only to curb spending on temporary hires but also to ensure job security and foster expertise among staff.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education clarified, “Agency workers are engaged for short-term assignments or to cover urgent needs while awaiting permanent staff recruitment. The number of agency workers fluctuates over the year, with reported figures reflecting end-of-fiscal-year counts (February 2024 for 2023/24).”

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