Labour de­mands halt over Univer­sal Credit

Evening Times - - NEWS - By TOM TORRANCE

SCOT­TISH Labour has called for the roll-out of Univer­sal Credit to be halted amid con­cerns that fam­i­lies are be­ing pushed into poverty and debt.

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

The full ser­vice of Univer­sal Credit, where peo­ple use an on­line ac­count to man­age their claim or ap­ply for a ben­e­fit, is al­ready op­er­a­tional in cer­tain parts of the coun­try and is due to be in­tro­duced in full by the end of next year.

It is aimed at bring­ing a num­ber of wel­fare pay­ments to­gether into one so­cial se­cu­rity pay­ment, mak­ing the sys­tem eas­ier to use.

How­ever, Scot­tish min­is­ters said peo­ple who are moved on to full ser­vice have to wait six weeks be­fore receiving their first pay­ment.

Labour said the de­lay is leav­ing peo­ple with­out vi­tal sup­port.

The party high­lighted ev­i­dence from Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Scot­land in­di­cat­ing a rise in rent ar­rears, cri­sis grant is­sues and food bank use in some of the ar­eas where Univer­sal Credit has al­ready been in­tro­duced.

The party’s deputy leader, Alex Row­ley, has writ­ten to Work and Pen­sions Sec­re­tary David Gauke and Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive leader Ruth Davidson to chal­lenge them to halt the roll-out.

He has also con­tacted ev­ery MP in the UK to seek sup­port for a de­lay.

He said: “I have heard first­hand 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 sup­posed to make ac­cess to so­cial se­cu­rity less com­plex and to fur­ther sup­port peo­ple into work.

“This can­not be the case if it is leav­ing peo­ple with­out the vi­tal sup­port they need and drives some to food banks sim­ply to sur­vive.

“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 food banks 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.”

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.”

Labour’s deputy leader Alex Row­ley has writ­ten to Work and Pen­sions Sec­re­tary David Gauke and Scot­tish Tory leader Ruth Davidson

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