Renewed Calls to Reverse Universal Credit Cut

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Tory MSP Urged to ‘Put Words Into Action’

Social Justice secretary Shona Robison has made a heartfelt plea for the UK Government to scrap the ‘senseless and harmful’ withdrawal of the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift.

She will condemn the proposed cut when she opens a debate in the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday, 28 September) on the decision to remove the lifeline payment from 6 October.

The SNP is urging Tory MSPs to use the opportunity to put words into action and oppose the cut. It comes after Tory MSP Alexander Stewart admitted in Holyrood last week that he and his colleagues were ‘lobbying’ their Westminster bosses to reverse plans to cut £20 a week from the most vulnerable.

Over six million people across the UK are set to lose more than £1,000 a year, and it is estimated that the cut risks pushing 60,000 people across Scotland – including 20,000 children – into poverty, and tens of thousands more into hardship.

The Scottish Government has written to the UK Government on eight occasions throughout the pandemic asking for them to make the uplift permanent and to extend it to legacy benefits.

Graeme:

Today’s debate provides Tory MSPs with the perfect opportunity to stand up to their bosses at Westminster and put words into action by voting to reject this cut.

It is a cruel and callous move that Scottish Tories have claimed to oppose, and so now is the time to find a backbone.

If Tory colleagues in the Scottish Parliament do not vote against the cut, they will be culpable in plunging tens of thousands into poverty and will demonstrate that they exist only to prop up an unwanted UK Government imposing brutal policies on the most vulnerable here in Angus and across Scotland.

With people on low incomes already facing the likes of higher food bills and skyrocketing energy bills, to willingly compound this with the planned cut to Universal Credit would be creating the perfect storm and – frankly – disgraceful.

Scottish Government Social Justice Secretary, Shona Robison:

The decision to withdraw the Universal Credit uplift is senseless and harmful, a hammer blow of hardship as we begin to emerge from the enormous social and economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes at a time of rising food and fuel bills, imminent increases in National Insurance payments and the end of the self-employment and furlough schemes.

This is a conscious decision to remove support from people on the lowest incomes who rely upon this uplift as a lifeline to allow basic needs to be met.

This will be the biggest overnight reduction to a basic rate of social security for over 70 years. Many of those who will lose out are unable to work due to ill health and disability and more than a third of Universal Credit recipients are already in work but rely on the payments to make ends meet.

Last year we provided around £2.5 billion in support for people on low incomes, including almost £1 billion targeted at children, but our progress will be undermined by the UK Government’s hard line approach.

Analysis from the Scottish Government shows the cut to Universal Credit is set to reduce welfare expenditure in Scotland by over £460 million by 2023/24.

This is the last chance UK Ministers have to reverse their harmful plan.  I urge them to listen to the concerns of people who will be at the sharp end of this cut and keep the lifeline.

I also call upon all colleagues across the Chamber to make their voices heard and the voices of their constituents heard in a unified call on the UK Government to do the right thing.

Background

  • Last year the Scottish Government provided around £2.5 billion in support for people on low incomes, including almost £1 billion targeted at children. This includes increasing School Clothing Grant to £120 for primary school pupils and £150 for secondary, and delivering alternate Free School Meal provision in school holidays – supporting around 148,000 children and young people.
  • Around 108,000 children are now in receipt of the Scottish Child Payment, a benefit unique in the UK, designed to tackle child poverty head on.
  • Bridging payments of £520, to be paid in 2021 and 2022 are also being made to around 148,000 children getting free school meals due to low income.
  • Following the full roll out to under-16s by the end of 2022, the Scottish Government has pledged to double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week within the lifetime of the Parliament.
  • The Scottish Government has also supported people through the Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods policies which since their launch up till 30 June 2021 have authorised more than 179,000 applications.
  • In July, the Scottish Government’s first major disability payment, the Child Disability Payment, opened in three local authority areas, ahead of a national roll-out from 22 November 2021.
  • The roll-out of Adult Disability Payment, to replace Personal Independence Payment, will be piloted next spring ahead of national roll out in the summer.