Universal Credit – the UK government’s flagship welfare policy – is a new payment to replace several existing benefits, including housing benefit and child tax credits, with one single monthly payment.
The rollout has turned into an unmitigated disaster. The in-built minimum five-week delay in receiving the first payment is having catastrophic consequences, with families falling behind in rent payments and increasingly relying on emergency welfare support and foodbanks. When fully implemented, Universal Credit cuts will put 1 million more children into poverty by 2020.
Universal Credit is entirely reserved to the UK Government. We have very limited powers to support people in how they are paid, and we use these to protect people in Scotland. This means that people on Universal Credit in Scotland can opt for Universal Credit Scottish Choices which means they can choose to be paid twice monthly and for their rent to be paid direct to landlords, making it easier for people to manage their money. However, the Scottish Government does not have the power to fix the damage being inflicted by a five-week delay in receiving payments.
The SNP will continue to push the UK Government to stop ignoring the overwhelming evidence that Universal Credit is causing unnecessary hardship and failing thousands of families across the country.
We believe Universal Credit should be radically reformed, halting the move to the new payment until the the flaws have been fixed. Reform should include:
- Fixing the in-built payment delay
- Scrapping the two-child cap on child tax credits and the appalling rape clause
- Reintroducing the Employment Support Allowance work related activity component and enhanced disability support
- Offering the choice to be paid twice monthly, for their rent to be paid direct to landlords and separate household payments
- Introducing a minimum income threshold for self-employed claimants
We want Tory Ministers to listen to the concerns being raised from all quarters and finally accept there are fundamental flaws in the system that need to be urgently addressed.