Local and Scottish Government demand assurance from UK Government.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman and COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson Kelly Parry, have joined forces to demand a halt to the full service roll-out of Universal Credit in Scotland.
In a joint letter to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke, they raise a number of ‘abject failures’ of the new UK Government system.
They also highlight new figures from COSLA showing the damaging impact on people and local authorities, in those areas where full service roll out has already taken place (Highland, East Lothian, East Dunbartonshire, and Inverclyde), including:
- The average level of rent arrears for tenants in receipt of Universal Credit is at least 2.5 times higher than those tenants in receipt of housing benefit
- An increase in discretionary housing payments by the four local authorities, attributable to Universal Credit full service, of £343,010, and in Scottish Welfare Fund crisis grant payments of £94,131
- Additional administrative costs for the four local authorities of £832,612 attributable to Universal Credit full service
Ms Freeman said:
“The Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and causing unnecessary hardship and suffering to families across Scotland. It is vital that the UK Government addresses these failings and that the roll-out is halted until problems are fixed.
“Universal Credit is failing the people it is designed to support. The in-built six week wait for the first payment – which is often even longer – is unacceptable and pushing people into crisis and rent arrears, having to rely on food banks and emergency payments to get by.
“The Universal Credit pilots have also highlighted problems with monthly payments, removing landlord direct payments and making a single household payment.
“Despite the clear evidence of these failures the Department for Work and Pensions still refuses to acknowledge the severity of the problem. This incompetency cannot continue. It is time UK Ministers faced up to the facts and stepped up to support people and stop the roll out of a failing system.”
Ms Freeman will use a Scottish Government debate on Universal Credit on Tuesday to again call for a halt to the roll out until the system’s problems are fully addressed.
The Scottish Government has previously set out how Universal Credit payments in Scotland are to become more frequent and adaptable, under one of the first uses of new social security powers, to ensure greater choice and flexibility.