SNP MP criticises ‘botched’ universal credit pilot in Highland constituency
Drew Hendry said a pilot of the single monthly payment in his constituency of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey had been “nothing short of a disaster” and a “personal catastrophe” for many.
He has written to Theresa May to invite her to attend a summit in Inverness next month to hear from constituents directly affected by the “botched” roll-out.
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Mr Hendry said these included a woman named Abbey whose payments were stopped when she went on maternity leave, leaving her owing £2,000 in rent arrears and surviving on food vouchers during the four months it took to fix the error.
Another constituent, a single mum-of-two with cancer named Leanne, waited six weeks for payment only for the amount to be more than £500 short.
“Shamefully, the DWP then demanded she attended a work capability assessment - against the advice of her furious GP,” the letter said.
Another expectant mother named Rachael waited for payment from Christmas until April as the result of a mistake, leaving her close to being evicted for £1,500 of housing arrears, and was then asked to make a round trip of 200 miles from Inverness to Aberdeen to sort out the problem.
The MP said in a further case a constituent named John was evicted from his home due to months without payment.
Mr Hendry said more than 60% of his constituent caseload was related to universal credit, with his office alone dealing with more than 200 cases.
“Many of these people have come to me as a last resort - when they have nowhere left to turn, having already waited months for payment,” he wrote.
“Rent arrears, first time debt, evictions, long delays to payments, short payments, lost sick notes, misplaced documents, failure to respond, confusion between departments, crushed morale of Job Centre staff- and an inability to respond to common sense are rife.”
Commenting on the letter, the MP added: ‘’I want the prime minister to hear from my constituents, local authority staff, and the third sector and to work with us to stop this awful mess.
“On a daily basis now I hear utterly horrifying stories of financial hardships - evictions - and personal humiliation.
‘’The roll-out of universal credit has been nothing short of a disaster - and for those it has failed it has been a personal catastrophe.
‘’I have consistently urged the UK government to act on the mountain of evidence, including from their own agencies and delivery partners, on the harm this shambles is causing.
‘’It isn’t working. It never has. The Tories know it and they must halt it now.
“Theresa May or any of her ministers should really come and hear the testimony from those suffering because of universal credit.’’