Universal Credit change ‘will drive families into poverty’

The introduction of Universal Credit will plunge some of Fife’s most vulnerable families deeper into poverty, the region’s political leaders have warned.

The SNP’s David Alexander and Labour’s David Ross have called on the UK Government to halt the introduction of its controversial benefits system, due to be implemented in December.

The administration co-leaders say the six-week wait experienced by new claimants could result in families going without food or heating over the festive period.

Mr Ross said experiences from other parts of the country, where payment delays have left people struggling to make ends meet, should act as a warning about what Fife should expect.

“Systems for its rollout are inadequate, the IT is not in place and there is still a lot of work to be done with administrative arrangements,” he said.

“A suspension would also give us the opportunity to lobby hard for a complete change in direction.”

He added: “Universal Credit will have a huge impact on the claimants that rely on it. They are forced to make the choice between eating, heating or going into debt.”

Mr Ross estimated the introduction of the scheme would hit the local economy to the tune of £153 million and he predicted a soar in council tenants falling behind in their rent.

Mr Alexander described evidence for postponing the introduction of Universal Credit as “overwhelming”.

He added: “We cannot mitigate everything they (the UK Government) do. It is clear the system is broken.”