Calls in Scotland for a halt to roll out of Universal Credit grow

People who are moved onto the new benefit are waiting six weeks before getting payment, pushing them into poverty and debt

SCOTTISH LABOUR has called on the UK Government to halt its plans to roll out Universal Credit over concerns that families will be pushed into poverty and debt.

As reported on Sunday (30 July), Alex Rowley has written to both Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson to challenge them to stop the new online benefit.

This follows on from a similar call from the Scottish Government earlier this year, warning of problems with the implementation of the new benefit.

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader said: “I have heard first-hand some of the issues around the roll-out of Universal Credit and there is a very real concern that the system is leaving many in poverty and debt.”

Universal Credit is a new online account that allows people to manage their claim or to apply for new benefits.

“I have heard first-hand some of the issues around the roll-out of Universal Credit and there is a very real concern that the system is leaving many in poverty and debt.” Alex Rowley

It is supposed to make the social security payment less complicated by replacing six existing benefits into one benefit. It has already been rolled out in parts of Scotland, but it will be introduced across the rest of the country by the end of 2018 – starting this October.  

It is projected that the roll-out of Universal Credit should be completed by 2022 and there will just over 650,000 households in Scotland claiming the new benefit.

However, Scottish ministers have said that people who’ve moved onto the new benefit have up to six weeks before receiving their payment.

Scottish Labour said that the delay has left people without vital support.

“If the system puts more people in poverty or debt, or even increases the risk of these, then it should not continue in that form.” Alex Rowley

Scottish Labour highlighted evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland that showed that there has been an increase in rent arrears, crisis grant payments and the use of foodbanks since the new benefit was introduced in 2013.

New data revealed from the SNP showed that out of the 165,000 applications for crisis grants in the past year, only 17,500 were due to a delay in benefits payments.

Rowley said: “The six-week waiting period for payments at the start of the process is particularly concerning, resulting in people ending up with rent arrears, and forcing them to rely on crisis grants and foodbanks for the very basic necessity of feeding themselves. 

“The accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit must be halted until these problems can be resolved. If the system puts more people in poverty or debt, or even increases the risk of these, then it should not continue in that form.”

“The Scottish Parliament now has significant welfare powers including flexibility over Universal Credit payments.” DWP spokesman

Rowley has written to every MP asking for their support to halt the roll-out

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are rolling out Universal Credit in a gradual, safe and secure way and the majority of people are managing their budgets well. The best way to help people improve their lives is to help them into work, and under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“It’s misleading to link crisis grants to delays as the Scottish Government’s own figures show the vast majority of grants it issued were for other reasons. The Scottish Parliament now has significant welfare powers including flexibility over Universal Credit payments.”

Picture coursey of J Mark Dodds

Look at how important CommonSpace has become, and how vital it is for the future #SupportAReporter

/p