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Call to halt roll-out of Universal Credit

Published Thursday, 31 August 2017

exterior view of council headquaters

The Leader of South Lanarkshire Council has called for a halt to the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Councillor John Ross said it is plunging families into financial crisis. He made the demand after hearing evidence of the impact of the welfare reform, which is designed to simplify social security by replacing up to six benefits with a single payment.

Universal Credit has started in a number of places across Scotland, including South Lanarkshire, and the Department for Work and Pensions intends to roll it out until 2022, by which time an estimated 652,500 Scottish households will claim it.

However, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has reported evidence from initial roll-out areas which they say shows Universal Credit has pushed families into debt and left many struggling with their finances.

Cllr Ross has now backed the CAS call for the roll-out of the reform to be delayed. He said: “The aim may have been to make the system less complicated but it is clear that in reality Universal Credit is currently making life worse for many families.

“The CAS evidence is backed up by personal stories I have heard myself, and I am sure every councillor in affected parts of Scotland will have been approached by constituents who find themselves in financial crisis and unable to make ends meet.

“Just one bizarre aspect is that people claiming the benefit are finding the process so complicated that they are using up precious time on it when they could be looking for work and starting the process of getting off benefits.

“Given these circumstances it is imperative that the further roll-out of Universal Credit is halted while efforts are made to make the system easier to understand, provide more support to claimants and, most importantly, speed up payments.”

And Daniel Lowe, the council's Executive Director of Housing and Technical Resources, said: “Locally the council continues to focus upon raising awareness of Universal Credit and its implications and works with our partners to deliver services to help mitigate its impact.

“Experience to date has shown the significant challenge it presents for our customers and the impact it is having on council rent arrears.”