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Relief as taxi driver grants won't hit Universal Credit payments

By Alan Beresford

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TAXI and private hire drivers taking advantage of a new fund to help them through the lockdown will not see their Universal Credit (UC) payments affected.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson.

The Scottish Government recently unveiled a £1500 grant for eligible drivers to assist with fixed costs.

It is part of a wider £57 million Scottish Government funding package to help support the sector following the impact on business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Concern had been raised, that drivers who were receiving (UC), would have their income assessed based on receipt of the grant.

Now the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed: “Covid-19 related grants which are intended to cover the loss of business income and to aid business recovery, will be disregarded for Universal Credit purposes for 12 months.”

The DWP also confirmed this would include the Scottish Government grant for taxi and private hire drivers.

The news was welcomed by local MSP Stewart Stevenson.

He said: “Despite the restrictions, many fixed costs have still remained for drivers, such as general maintenance, licence plate fees, rental fees and insurance payments and the increase in funding will cover these expensive costs.

“This confirmation is a welcome step forward as we continue to work hard to reduce the number of people infected with coronavirus.”

More information on eligibility can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-taxi-and-private-hire-driver-support-fund/

While welcoming the move, Moray Tory MP Douglas Ross said that the Scottish Government had to be "forced into a U-turn" on the matter.

"It’s good to see confirmation from the Department for Work and Pensions that Covid-19 grants to cover loss of business income will be disregarded for Universal Credit purposes.

"But we should not forget that the SNP Government had to be forced into a U-turn to allow drivers on the lowest incomes to access financial support in the first place.

"Initially, SNP ministers said the grants would not be available to those claiming state benefits.

"They tried to blame the UK government and Universal Credit, but the DWP has confirmed it was not consulted in advance about the eligibility criteria for the scheme. If it had been, SNP ministers would have been told that the issue was already covered by existing Covid legislation.

"This is a good outcome for the drivers, many of whom have really been struggling through this pandemic."

Other schemes open to taxi drivers include the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Public Transport Mitigation Fund and the UK government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The Scottish Government has allocated £3 billion in business support since the start of the pandemic on top of support available through the UK government.

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