MSP urges a halt to ‘disastrous’ Universal Credit roll-out

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Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay has made an impassioned Holyrood plea for a halt to the further spread of Universal Credit .

In East Dunbartonshire the controversial new welfare entitlement system is already said to have sparked a 15 per cent rise in rent arrears, and is now set to be “radically” extended.

Ms Mackay told MSPs: “The words ‘universal credit’ are misleading and cruel because they give the illusion of something for everyone, whereas the reality is that it is anything but that.

“Universal credit, which was introduced by the Tory Government at Westminster, is merely a euphemism for more Tory austerity.

“It is the continuation of the attack on our poorest citizens and part of the wider destruction of the UK social security system.

“It is the same attack on the welfare state that the United Nations has called a ‘human catastrophe’ for disabled people”.

She added: “The Tories have cut £30 a week from the disability benefit employment and support allowance, hitting those who are unable to work.

“They have implemented the hated two-child tax credit limit, which takes money from low-income mothers and fathers who desperately need it.

“They have removed the family element of working tax credits, again hitting low-income parents hard - and they have locked young people aged 18 to 21 out of housing benefit.”

She argued strongly that extension of the system must be delayed, commenting: “As a former board member of East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, I was all too aware of the fears of the bureau’s staff before the implementation of the universal credit system.

“Those hard-working staff are on the front line and could foresee the misery that the system would cause to so many people who are already struggling to make ends meet every day.

“Sadly, their fears have been realised.

“With universal credit, benefits are paid in a lump sum, leaving many recipients unable to budget and increasing the risk of homelessness and food and fuel poverty.”

She said there has been an 87 per cent increase in crisis grant issues in the pilot areas used for the ndew system, as opposed to just nine per cent nationally.

“Two of the bureaux have seen increases in advice about access to food banks of 40 per cent and 70 per cent, compared with a national increase of 3 per cent.”

Meanwhile well over a third of claims have had to wait more than six weeks to receive their first payment.

Ms Mackay said: “People are sinking further into deprivation thanks to a roll-out riddled with error, and the roll-out must be paused until key problems are addressed.

“No organisation would go ahead with a scheme that had failed so badly in a trial, but, as ever, the Tories will plough on with their disastrous policy regardless of the human cost.

“In the name of humanity, will the Tories admit that the system is a disaster and stop the roll-out?

“To err is human, but to compound a mistake is simply madness.”