MSPs to debate ‘last chance’ to reverse Universal Credit cut

MSPs will debate the upcoming cut in Universal Credit on Tuesday, with an SNP minister saying the UK Government has a “last chance” to reverse the plan.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said the end of the £20 uplift would be “senseless and harmful”.

The Scottish Parliament will debate a motion from Ms Robison on Tuesday afternoon which says the cut “reflects the UK Government’s uncompassionate approach to welfare”.

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The UK Government says the £20-a-week uplift was always meant to be a temporary measure during the pandemic and its focus is now on helping people into jobs.

Reducing Universal Credit is expected to lower welfare spending in Scotland by £461 million a year, which the Scottish Government says will push 60,000 people into poverty.

The uplift is due to end officially on October 6.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Ms Robison said: “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.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said the end of the £20 uplift would be “senseless and harmful”.

“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.”

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She continued: “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.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary.

“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.

“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.

“The Scottish Parliament has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.”

New figures show that a record number of people are seeking support for their mental and financial wellbeing ahead of the widely opposed cut coming into force.

Visits to its online mental health and money advice services have almost doubled in a year – from 30,760 in August 2020 to 60,214 last month.

Research also suggests that more than half of people on Universal Credit will be unable to pay their bills once the £20 uplift to the payment is cut.

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