Universal Credit (UC) is pushing Scots into debt when they are already struggling for money and the entire system around the benefit should be fundamentally reformed.
That’s according to the charity group Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), which is also concerned by the fact that the benefits system increasingly functions on the basis of a “digital by default” approach.
CAS says that because the system operates on a primarily digital basis a lot of people are being locked out of it and are being left in serious financial difficulty as a result.
The charity is particularly critical of the five-week wait that new UC claimants must get through before they receive any money through the current system.
Its view is that the loan system designed to help people get by as they wait for their initial payments often has the effect of pushing people into debt, which they will then often struggle to get out of.
CAS wants to see the government introducing a system of granting people money to get them through the five-week initial wait period for UC benefits and have that replace the current loan-based set up.
“We need to see significant changes to the way the Universal Credit is designed and delivered to ensure it supports the people who need it,” said Mhoraig Green, a spokesperson for CAS.
“There are issues with how long people have to wait for a first payment, people being pushed into further debt, and the digital by default system which locks out people who don’t have the skills or means to apply and maintain their claim online.
“We need fundamental reforms to the system to address these issues.”
Ms Green also commented on what she describes as a “rising tide” of people who are in work but who still find themselves living in poverty.
These people need support from the government to improve their circumstances but they are not currently getting it from the Universal Credit system, according to Ms Green from CAS.
“Universal Credit is supposed to provide this support, but our evidence shows that in reality it penalises people who work,” she said.
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Unusually high rates of inflation are threatening to sweep many more Scots into problem debt situations and serious financial difficulties.
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