Concern for Universal Credit claimants over Christmas

Foodbank use has gone up since Universal Credit was rolled out

There are warnings that anybody making a new benefits application in Fife will not see any money until after Christmas.

It is because of a five week waiting period for universal credit payments, something campaigners say is pushing people into foodbank use.

In Kirkcaldy, foodbanks have handed out three times more parcels since universal credit was rolled out last December.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the social security secretary, visited the citizens Advice Scotland charity, where she met struggling claimants.

She said: "Christmas is a time of additional expense for most people but it’s particularly hard for families with little money to begin with.

"It is therefore unacceptable that anyone making a claim for Universal Credit from last week will not see their money until after Christmas. 

"This is an appalling situation for many across Scotland and why we have repeatedly called for a halt to the roll out of Universal Credit.

"The minimum five week wait for a first payment is just one of the many problems with Universal Credit, the roll out of which has led to sharp rises in the use of food banks and rent arrears.

"While the DWP do offer advance payments, this needs to be paid back from future payments, locking families in to further debt at the start of a new year.

"The Scottish Government cannot change Universal Credit.  

"It’s a benefit delivered by the UK Government. 

"However, we do have limited powers to make the delivery of Universal Credit better suited to the needs of people. 

"Since last year, our Universal Credit Scottish choices have given people the choice to receive their Universal Credit award twice monthly and have the housing costs paid directly to their landlord.

"We are spending significant amounts to mitigate the worst effects of UK Government cuts and support those on low incomes - £125 million this year alone - £20 million more than last year.

"Previous calls for the roll out to be halted have been ignored and Universal Credit will be available in all areas before Christmas. 

"The UK Government must now make the fundamental changes needed to make Universal Credit fit for purpose before the managed migration of people on legacy benefits begins next summer."

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