In 2017/18, Scotland’s CAB network provided advice on 19,047 issues related to Universal Credit (UC), which by the end of the period had only been rolled out to around half of Scotland’s local authority areas. Additionally, CAB advised clients on 10,562 Working Tax Credit and 11,499 Child Tax Credit issues, which are the main in-work benefits that will be replaced by UC.
Given that Universal Credit will eventually be received by around 652,500 households in Scotland, and that a significant number of early issues have affected CAB clients, it is a high priority for CAS policy work. As Universal Credit integrates in-work and out-of-work benefits, this includes assessing the impact of UC on working households, including to what extent it meets its original aim of ‘making work pay’.
The rising level of in-work poverty during the last five years has also been a concern for CAS. According to the latest official figures, 59% of working-age adults in relative poverty after housing costs were living in working households. Citizens Advice Scotland has previously published research on some of the causes of in-work poverty in Scotland, including the rise of zero hours contracts, low pay, childcare costs as well as issues with the benefits system.