Today the Scottish Parliament called on the UK Government to halt the national roll-out of Universal Credit which has been introduced in stages UK wide, including in Inverclyde.
The chamber debate followed a joint letter from Holyrood and COSLA to Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, demanding the brakes be put on the roll-out of the project in Scotland.
Universal Credit has been criticised for the damage that it is causing recipients, with evidence showing that many are subject to a six-week wait for the first payment which is pushing people into rent arrears, debt and crisis. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into the welfare reform project highlighted this and other fundamental flaws that must be resolved before full-service roll-out proceeds. Just the week, it has been reported that a group of Tory backbenchers are even calling for the roll out to be halted.
Commenting after the debate, Mr McMillan said:
“Since the roll-out of Universal Credit, Inverclyde Foodbank has witnessed an increase in foodbank use. They served 3,175 people between January and September of this year, which is a 67% increase on the same period last year, and experienced their busiest shift to date six weeks ago when they fed 68 people in a three-hour period.
“Universal Credit is therefore doing the opposite of what it’s intended to do as it’s forcing people to turn to foodbanks for help partly due to the delay in payments, but also because this new system is leaving claimants out of pocket compared to if they were still able to access previous benefits.
“The Scottish Government has tried to minimise the issues surrounding UC by establishing flexibilities within the system to provide claimants in Scotland a choice of more frequent payments and for the housing element to be paid direct to landlords, as well as introducing split payments of Universal Credit.
“While these methods may make a difference for some, they do not address the most damaging aspects of the roll-out and I, along with the Scottish Government, am calling on Westminster to stop ignoring the overwhelming evidence that shows the negative impact of Universal Credit full service and instead take urgent action to resolve the problems, make the system fit for purpose, and work for the people of Scotland.”