North Ayrshire & Arran MP, Patricia Gibson has voiced her support for Citizens Advice Scotland’s call to halt to the roll-out of the UK Government’s flagship Universal Credit (UC). The new benefit was intended to simplify the system by combining six benefits into one payment. Instead, in areas where it has been introduced in Scotland, there has been a ten-fold increase in people contacting the charity about crisis grants and a 600% increase in clients with rent arrears.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has warned that a benefit designed to provide a safety net for welfare claimants is making their situation ‘much worse’ and plunging them into rent arrears and debt.
The charity says the UK Government needs to fix ‘major flaws’ in the system, which are leaving many Scots unable to make ends meet.
Patricia Gibson MP said: “One of the main problems is a six-week wait for payment at the beginning of the claim process, during which claimants are likely to have no income.
“The Scottish Government supports CAS in calling for a halt in the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit so these problems can be fixed before more families find themselves in crisis.”
CAS Chair, Rory Mair CBE says: “We have always supported the principles behind Universal Credit. We firmly believe that simplifying access to benefits for those who need them is critical. However, we have been monitoring the impact of Universal Credit closely, and we are very concerned.
“Citizens Advice Bureaux are uniquely placed to see how changes like this affect people, and in all of the initial rollout areas the evidence is clear: Universal Credit has major delivery and design flaws which risk hurting families instead of helping them. These include long waits for payments that push people into crisis and debt, all while battling a highly complicated process with little support.
“For too many people, a system that is intended to support them through difficult times is making their situation much worse. Families are falling into debt and rent arrears and having to turn to foodbanks just to survive. These issues simply must be addressed before anyone else is affected. The government needs to do more to reduce how long people have to wait for payments and to improve the support available.
“So we are today calling for a pause in the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit, so that these problems can be fixed before more families find themselves in crisis.”