South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that the rollout of the full Universal Credit could mean families across Dumfries and Galloway reliant on benefits almost £2000 a year worse off.
Universal Credit, which was rolled out fully on Wednesday, replaces six current legacy benefits – Job Seekers Allowance, Income Related Employment, Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Child and Working Tax Credits.
Its introduction was due to take place in February but was postponed due to a number of implementation problems that had arisen in both the Live and Full Universal Credit Service.
East Lothian was the first Scottish local authority to roll out the Universal Credit Full Service. Mr Smyth said that reports to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Communities Committee have highlighted that in East Lothian there was a significant rise in the number of rent arrears as a result of the implementation from Universal Credit.
He also said that research from the Citizens Advice Bureau has also shown that benefit claimants were worse off by over £50 every week for the first thirty weeks of moving from the current legacy benefits to Universal Credit in East Lothian.
He continued: “The impact of the Tories cruel Universal Credit will be devastating for many local families. In a weeks’ time families across Dumfries and Galloway will find that they have to claim Universal Credit and will no longer receive Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Employment Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance for the first time. This will mean cuts in benefit entitlement for many families. If the effects of the full service that were seen in East Lothian are replicated across Dumfries and Galloway we could see our most vulnerable families nearly £2,000 a year worse off”.
“The Tory Government paused the rollout of Full Universal Credit but they merely tinkered around the edges of this flawed system. The reduction in time between application and first payment still leaves claimants waiting five weeks with no financial support. The mitigation put in place for this in the form of Advance Payments will plunge claimants into debt as it is simply a loan that must be paid back. Our welfare system should be trying to prevent people from falling into debt – not making the situation worse.
“I would urge anyone concerned about Universal Credit to contact the local Welfare Rights or Citizens Advice Centre offices if they need any support when applying for Universal Credit.”