Scottish charities call for halt to roll-out of ‘flawed’ Universal Credit

Paying bills stockA group of 24 Scottish charities have come together to urge the UK government to stop the roll-out of the Universal Credit system in Scotland.

A major change the benefits system, Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits with one, and is designed to make the benefits process easier. The government has been rolling it out gradually, testing it in selected areas, but an ‘accelerated rollout’ to the whole country is set to begin in October.

In five years, it is expected that Universal Credit will be claimed by over 650,000 households in Scotland.

The charities, which include Cyrenians, Shelter Scotland, SFHA, Homeless Action Scotland and the Housing Support Enabling Unit, said the change is a good idea “in principle” which should make life easier for both the claimant and the delivery agencies alike.

UC charitiesThey also describe the phased the rollout of the benefit on a ‘test and learn’ basis as “a sensible approach to a very major change”.

However, in the letter today to the Scottish edition of The Times, the charities say they have all seen vulnerable people suffer due to significant flaws in Universal Credit in the areas affected so far and urge the government to “halt and fix” the flaws before the system is rolled out further.

The letter reads: “Having seen how Universal Credit has worked so far, it is clear that it is leaving thousands of people struggling to make ends meet. The flaws include a six week waiting period between a person’s claim and their initial payment.

“Another issue is that Universal Credit is an entirely online system, yet our evidence is that many applicants don’t have access to computers or the skills to use them.

“Together, we believe the government must halt the rollout of the benefit so that these flaws can be fixed before they harm any more people. This will require serious changes, not just minor adjustments.

“Fundamentally, we need a benefits system that supports those in need, and it is in that spirit that we are calling to halt and fix Universal Credit.”

The full list of signatories includes:

  • Ewan Aitken, CEO, Cyrenians
  • Jackie Brock, CEO, Children in Scotland
  • Graeme Brown, director, Shelter Scotland
  • Yvette Burgess, director, Housing Support Enabling Unit
  • Claire Cairns, network co-ordinator, Coalition of Carers in Scotland
  • Annie Gunner Logan, director, Coalition of Care and Support Providers
  • Neil Henery, director, Camphill Scotland
  • Delia Henry, chair, Disability Agenda Scotland
  • Peter Kelly, director, The Poverty Alliance
  • Jamie Livingstone, director, Oxfam Scotland
  • Rory Mair, chair, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Richard Meade, head of policy and public affairs, Marie Curie Scotland
  • Robin McAlpine, cirector, Common Weal
  • Suzanne Munday, CEO, Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project
  • Satwat Rehman, cirector, One Parent Families Scotland
  • Emma Ritch, executive director, Engender
  • Pete Ritchie, director, Nourish Scotland
  • Bill Scott, director of Policy, Inclusion Scotland
  • Theresa Shearer, CEO, ENABLE Scotland
  • Martin Sime, CEO, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
  • Sally Thomas, CEO, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • George Valiotis, CEO, HIV Scotland
  • Dr David Webster, Glasgow University
  • Meg Wright, Director, Carers Trust Scotland
  • Gavin Yates, CEO, Homeless Action Scotland.
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