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Universal Credit claimants being 'hung out to dry' over £20 uplift cut, says MSP

By Alan Beresford

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PLANS to cut Universal Credit (UC) payments by £20 a week have been slammed by a local MSP.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam.

UC payments were raised by the among last year when the country went in to lockdown. It had been due to end on March 31 but was extended by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak for a further six months.

However, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey announced that the £20 uplift would cease in the autumn.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Karen Adam said that the constituency has one of the highest rates of people relying on UC, going on to express her "deep concern" over the move by the UK Conservative government which could potentially plunge thousands more into poverty.

UC is a benefit which is reserved to Westminster.

Charities and campaigners have warned that cutting the benefit will mean 400,000 children in the UK will be pushed into poverty while the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland has warned the Conservative plan would be “catastrophic” for families.

Ms Adam said: “Back in March 2020, the Westminster Government rightly acted swiftly, recognising the need to invest in our social security system to hold us steady during an economic crisis, and increased the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £20 a week.

"It is clear to everyone within their communities that even with this increase, many families have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic and have struggled to make ends meet, cutting back on essentials and getting into debt and have used food banks for the first time. This safety net has allowed them to keep their heads above water.

“I know that in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency it consists of council wards that together account for over 22 per cent of the entire Aberdeenshire-based Universal Credit claimant list. In terms of economic vulnerability, wards are generally worse-than-average, according to a number of indicators including average income, the proportion of pensioners in receipt of Pension Credits and child poverty.

"The area is also home to a relatively high proportion of people on Universal Credit whilst in employment, suggesting in-work poverty may be an issue. Even across Aberdeenshire, 22 per cent of workers are paid less than the Living Wage.”

Figures released by the Department of Work and Pensions showed an increase in Moray UC claimants over the month of June with some 6792 people in the region claiming the benefit compared to 6733 in May.

Ms Adam went on to urge the UK government to "do the right thing" and U-turn on the £20 uplift decision.

She added: "We see the Tories allocating money to Royal yachts and cutting back on oversees aid, and a pattern is emerging where the most vulnerable in our local communities are being hung out to dry.”

Both the Resolution Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned of the impact cancelling the uplift could have.

The Resolution Foundation stated: “The surge in claims for Universal Credit (UC) when the pandemic first hit means that UC caseloads are now about twice as high as they were pre-pandemic, with over half of all single parents now in receipt of UC.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “The £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit has been a lifeline for families during the coronavirus storm.

"[Ending the uplift is] whipping the lifeline away, cutting many adrift and seeing 700,000 more people pulled into poverty. The government promised to protect living standards and level up the country, but around 16 million people are in families that will feel an overnight loss of £1040 per year, disproportionately hitting those on the lowest incomes and families with children.”

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