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Moray Council report reveals "shocking" impact of Universal Credit

By Staff Reporter

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Universal credit was designed to simplify the welfare system but its introduction has proved controversial.
Universal credit was designed to simplify the welfare system but its introduction has proved controversial.

THE SHOCKING impact of the UK Government's new welfare system has been laid bare in a local authority report.

The Policy and Resources Committee paper (https://bit.ly/2thDA66) highlights rapidly growing pressures on the Scottish Government Scottish Welfare Fund to mitigate against the worst impacts of the Conservative’s Universal Credit (UC) policy.

Moray Councillor Aaron McLean (SNP, Forres) confirmed distribution of the fund is administered by the local authority.

He said: "The statistics showing the impact of UC on the most vulnerable in our community make for shocking reading. Time and again councillors, MPs, MSPs, charities, welfare experts and many others have highlighted how deeply flawed the UC rollout is. "

Rapidly rising applications for grants, increasing pressure on foodbanks and the impact on staff of dealing with "relentless" pressure of working with individuals and families in harrowing circumstances were raised as current impacts.

Councillors agreed to monitor the situation closely and set out the impacts directly to the Conservative Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Mr McLean added: "This report laid bare the shocking impacts on people in Moray despite the SNP Scottish Government putting in millions to try and mitigate the worst effects of this frankly awful Tory policy. The number of people involved has grown dramatically in the last year and is expected to continue over the next 12 months."

Moray's MSP Richard Lochhead also claimed more and more Moray households are being pushed into poverty.

He said: "The report shines a light on the truly heart-breaking consequences of Tory welfare cuts and the very real impact they are having on our communities. People in and out of work in Forres and across Moray are being let down by a system that is supposed to support them. Thousands of local families are being pushed to the brink by his Government."

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and Moray's Conservative MP Douglas Ross MP said that Universal Credit was supported by all parties when it was established as there was consensus that the old welfare system did not work.

He added: "There is no doubt the system can be improved further. I hope all parties will welcome the commitment the Conservative government have made to increase the money people get on benefits from April this year.

"Our local SNP member at Holyrood should ask why the SNP have failed to take on powers over welfare. It won’t be until 2025 that they will now take control of additional welfare benefits, almost a decade after the powers were transferred to the Scottish Parliament."

Councillor Claire Feaver (Conservative, Forres) claimed the reasons why people are applying for Universal Credit are varied.

She said: "At a time of economic growth and historically high employment levels, this can be for a wide and complex range of reasons and it is vital that that the people concerned are given the right forms of support and treated sensitively and appropriately.

"UC should provide both a safety net and be a ladder which allows people to move beyond benefits so that they can fulfil their potential.

"What most concerns me is that our schooling system, which should provide young people with the skills and qualifications they need to fulfil their potential, is in decline compared to other countries, and that fewer and fewer of our school-leavers are being offered places at Scottish universities. "This is storing up trouble for the future and could put our benefits system under even more pressure if things aren't turned round."

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