Falkirk MSP demands an end to Universal Credit roll-out ‘shambles’

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson.
Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson.

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson has joined the growing chorus of demands for a halt to the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The controversial benefit came into force for new claimants in the Falkirk Council area back in March and is due to be gradually expanded to existing claimants.

It replaces tax credits, housing benefit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance.

A main complaint about the new system is that claimants must wait at least six weeks before they receive their first payment, which is said to have driven vulnerable people into rent arrears and to food banks.

The benefit also restricts child tax credits to the first two children and introduces the “inhumane” rape clause.

Mr Matheson said: “While Universal Credit is a UK Government benefit, I’m regularly contacted by constituents who are suffering hardship because of this change to the welfare system.

“New examples of the misery Universal Credit is causing are emerging from across the country on a daily basis.

“It’s high time that the Tories halt the roll-out and face the stark reality of the damage this deeply flawed system is doing to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Mr Matheson also backed a call by Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville that Chancellor Philip Hammond must use his Budget later this month as the first step towards a fundamental review of the new system.

Ms Somerville said: “There are a number of changes that could be made in the forthcoming Budget which would have an immediate impact.

“The benefit freeze, which will see cuts of about £190million in 2018-19, should be lifted.

“The appalling two-child limit, which has seen 3,800 Scottish families’ income reduced in the first year, should be scrapped, and cuts to the universal credit work allowances should be reversed.”

Mr Matheson added: “The Scottish Government has used its limited social security powers to try to protect people.

“For example, we’re making it easier for universal credit claimants to manage their money by giving them the option of being paid twice monthly and having their rent paid directly to their landlord.

“However, the real power to fix this shambles lies with the UK Government, which can no longer deny that radical changes are needed to make universal credit fit for purpose.”