The facts are fairly sobering, in the areas where the pilots have been run for Universal Credit, Citizens Advice Scotland are reporting that they have seen a 15% rise in rent arrears issues compared to a national decrease of 2%, an 87% increase in Crisis Grant issues compared to a national increase of 9%, and two of five bureaux in impacted areas have seen a 40% and a 70% increase in advice about access to food banks advice, compared to a national increase of 3%.
Given these problems and the devastating impact it is having on thousands of men, women and children you would think the British government would pause, reflect and address the causes that are leading to thousands of people being put at risk of rent arrears, increased debt, poverty and a reliance on charity to feed themselves.
Citizens Advice Scotland are calling for a halt to the ‘accelerated roll-out’ of Universal Credit until the problems can be fixed before more families suffer.
I am supporting this call and have written to every MP in the UK highlighting the latest findings from Citizens Advice Scotland and asked for their support to halt the roll-out as this problem is affecting every area of the UK and near enough every community across our country.
I have also written to the Tory leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, asking that she and the Scottish Tories get behind the campaign and use whatever influence they have to halt the roll-out. I have made the point time and again, why would any government continue to roll-out a policy that they know is going to inflict human misery, despair and poverty on thousands of its citizens?
I have also tabled the following motion in the Scottish Parliament and if I can gain cross party support for this motion from other MSPs I will be able to secure a debate to further highlight the issues.
Motion Number: S5M-07056
Lodged By: Alex Rowley
Date Lodged: 08/08/2017
Title: Support for Citizens Advice Scotland’s Call to Stop Accelerated Roll-out of Universal Credit
That the Parliament notes with concern the reported evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux regarding the initial roll-out areas in Scotland, and elsewhere in the UK, which it believes highlights that the reality of universal credit risks leaving many people in Scotland without the support they need, pushing them into debt and leaving them unable to make ends meet; is further concerned that Citizens Advice Scotland, it understands, has reported that evidence from initial roll-out areas shows that, since universal credit was introduced, bureaux have seen a 15% rise in rent arrears issues compared to a national decrease of 2%, and an 87% increase in Crisis Grant issues compared to a national increase of 9%, and that two of the five bureaux in impacted areas have seen a 40% and 70% increase in advice about access to food banks, compared to a national increase of 3%; notes the call from Citizens Advice Scotland and a host of antipoverty organisations across Scotland for the UK Government to pause the accelerated roll-out of universal credit until the reported design and delivery problems have been addressed; notes the comments from the Chair of Citizens Advice Scotland, Rory Mair, that “universal credit has major delivery and design flaws which risk hurting families instead of helping them. These include long waits for payments that push people into crisis and debt, all the while battling a highly complicated process with little support”; considers that it is not right to proceed with the accelerated roll-out of universal credit in the knowledge that it will, it believes, result in tens of thousands of men, women and children in the Mid Scotland and Fife region and across Scotland being driven into debt and rent arrears and having to turn to foodbanks just to survive, and notes the calls on the UK Government to pause the process, listen to the evidence and act accordingly to address the issues.
You can follow the progress and see who does support the motion by clicking here: Motion S5M-07056
Citicens Advice Scotland can be found here: CAS Website