The Scottish Government has today written to the UK Government to raise urgent concerns over how Universal Credit is pushing more people into hardship and debt.
The full service of Universal Credit - i.e. where people must have an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit – is operational in certain parts of the country.
The way it is paid means new claimants have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment, resulting in tenants building up rent arrears and being pushed to seek crisis or hardship payments.
Delays in payments have seen landlords, including housing associations, reporting financial difficulties, with councils reporting record rent arrears.
Communities and Social Security Secretary issued the call ahead of a speech to Shelter Scotland’s Homelessness Conference, where the impact of the UK Government’s welfare changes on homelessness in Scotland was discussed.
Ms Constance said: “I’m today requesting a complete and immediate halt to the full service roll-out of Universal Credit in Scotland, which is having such an appalling impact on people across the country.
“It is clear that the system simply isn’t working and the UK Government is not prepared to make the necessary changes.
“The six week delay in receiving a payment - with longer delays for some being experienced - is a completely unacceptable situation and one which has the potential to push low income households into further hardship and homelessness.
“I was also shocked to hear reports that, in some areas, landlords are advertising properties as ‘No UC’ due to their experience with the system.
“Despite the UK government having these issues highlighted in the pilots for Universal Credit and by councils, charities, housing associations and parliamentarians, absolutely no meaningful reassurance has been received.
“I therefore cannot be confident that these issues are even close to being fully resolved and it is my view that it is simply not credible for the UK Government to continue with the further roll-out of full service Universal Credit until these problems are fully resolved.
“It is time for the UK Government to admit their mistake, and put people at the heart of their system, instead of ideology.”
Three local authority areas across Scotland already have full service Universal Credit in place, with roll-out planned for further parts of the country in the coming weeks and months.