Keith Brown MSP has criticised the rollout of Universal Credit in Clackmannanshire.

Last month, Universal Credit was rolled out in Clackmannanshire, with the expectation of Sauchie and Clackmannan who will receive it at a later date.

Six separate benefits (Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit) will now be rolled into Universal Credit.  However, the family element of Tax Credits has been removed which means that new families applying for support will lose around £545 a year and housing support has also been cut for 18-21 year-olds.

According to the Resolution Foundation think-tank, a single working parent could face a loss of £2,800 a year as a result of the reduced amount received through Universal Credit. Furthermore, Citizens Advice Scotland has recently called on the roll-out to be paused as their research into areas already burdened with Universal Credit have seen a 15% increase in rent arrears issues and 87% increase in crisis grant problems.

Keith Brown said: “It is absolutely shameful that the Tories have implemented these welfare cuts under the disguise of welfare reform.  The UK Government is only ever interested in giving tax cuts to the wealthiest in society instead of supporting the most vulnerable in our local communities.

“I am under no illusion that I will soon be seeing an increase in the number of constituents turning to my office for assistance due to problems caused by Universal Credit - be it the six week wait for payment at the beginning of the claim process or the struggle of making ends meet when you have less money in your pocket.

“Already the SNP Government has spent over £400 million every year to mitigate the Tory welfare cuts such as the Bedroom Tax and we plan to build a fairer society with a social security system that supports the most vulnerable in society and treats them with dignity and respect.

“I hope that Clackmannanshire's new Tory MP will join with my SNP colleagues at Westminster and call for a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit and put the voices of his most vulnerable constituents first”.

Chair of Citizen Advise Scotland Rory Mair said: “We have always supported the principles behind Universal Credit.

“We firmly believe that simplifying access to benefits for those who need them is critical. However, we have been monitoring the impact of Universal Credit closely and we are very concerned.

“Citizens Advice Bureaux are uniquely placed to see how changes like this affect people and in all of the initial roll-out areas the evidence is clear: Universal Credit has major delivery and design flaws which risk hurting families instead of helping them. These include long waits for payments that push people into crisis and debt, all while battling a highly-complicated process with little support.

“Families are falling into debt and rent arrears, and having to turn to food banks just to survive. These issues simply must be addressed before anyone else is affected.”