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Universal Credit: 700,000 Scottish Families Could Be Affected

Citizens Advice Scotland have called on the UK government to guarantee that low-income Scots will not lose out in the introduction of the new ‘Universal Credit’ benefit.

The National Audit Office today criticised the administrative failures of the new benefit, which is eventually supposed to be rolled out to over 700,000 families across Scotland.

Margaret Lynch, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, says:

“This news is alarming, and raises real concerns about whether this new system is going to work. We’ve already seen delays and uncertainty over its implementation. Now we are hearing that there are huge flaws inherent in its administration. This is a policy which will affect over 700,000 households in Scotland. The government must make sure it works properly before it hits those families.

“Most of these people are already living on very tight incomes, and have already suffered from the welfare reforms and benefit cuts that have already been implemented. Many of them simply won’t be able to cope with further loss of income, or with delays in their benefit payments.

“The benefits system is already creaking under the weight of the welfare changes that have already been made. Many of the reforms are simply not fit for purpose, and vulnerable people are losing out as a result. Half of the people who turn up at foodbanks, for example, are there because of delays in receiving their benefit payments. This is money they are entitled to, and which they rely on to feed themselves and pay their bills. The last thing those people need is even more administrative problems, leading to further confusion and delays in their payments. But today’s news doesn’t inspire confidence.  

“The government needs to recognise that people have legitimate concerns about this today. We need more than soothing words. We need total transparency. Ministers need to guarantee that the introduction of Universal Credit will not lead to these families’ payments being further cut, delayed or interrupted.

“The stated intention of Universal Credit is to simplify the benefits system and make it easier for claimants. We of course support that aim. But we have real concerns about whether it will actually be achieved.

“Welfare reforms like the Bedroom Tax and Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) are already causing real misery and hardship for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. The government must make sure that Universal Credit doesn’t make things even worse.”