Holyrood ministers to increase flexibility of Universal Credit

Social security minister Jeane Freeman delighted to address concerns over benefit payments

Social security minister Jeane Freeman delighted to address concerns over benefit payments

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The Scottish Government is to use new welfare powers to increase the flexibility of Universal Credit payments.

The benefit remains reserved but Scottish ministers have pledged to make payments more frequent and adaptable in the first use of the social security powers devolved under the Scotland Act 2016.

New claimants who live in council areas where a digital claiming system has been set up by the UK government will have the option to be paid fortnightly instead of monthly.

Tenants in both social housing and the private rented sector will be able to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to landlords. A consultation is to be launched later this month on regulations to bring about the changes.

Social security minister Jeane Freeman said: “As part of the social security consultation exercise last summer, we heard direct from people that paying the housing element of Universal Credit direct to landlords and receiving more frequent payments would be two important improvements to the DWP[Department of Work and Pensions] approach. I am delighted, therefore, that I am able to address these concerns and go further, by extending the direct payment option to tenants with private landlords and deliver these flexibilities for people in Scotland.

“Universal Credit remains reserved to the UK government but work with DWP to deliver the powers over the flexibilities is progressing and our priority is to ensure that, when these are devolved to us, we are ready and able to implement them in a way that best-meets the needs of the people of Scotland.”

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said: “We welcome the extension of choice of direct payments to landlords for tenants in the private sector of the housing element of Universal Credit.

“This should help protect tenancies and minimise rent arrears which will benefit both tenant and landlord.”

Scottish Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said: “There is an opportunity here for us to create a social security system based on respect. Labour wants to see a statutory duty that puts an obligation on the new social security agency to make sure everyone gets what they are entitled to.

“More than 100,000 Scots miss out on tax credits they are entitled to, making sure everyone gets what they deserve could make a difference.”

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