Long waits for the first payments made to Universal Credit claimants are leading people across Scotland into debt, stress, ill health and a reliance on foodbanks.
That’s according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), which has published a new report outlining the extent of the struggles that significant numbers of Scots face when they first claim Universal Credit.
Anyone claiming Universal Credit as a state benefit is likely to be low on funds anyway so the expectation that they should wait five weeks before getting their first official payments is creating serious problems, CAS has said.
The charity wants to see action taken to ensure that fewer people are left with weeks to wait before receiving their initial Universal Credit payments and more support is given to those who do find themselves in that position.
CAS social justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green has made clear that a sizeable proportion of the people her organisation helps each year are now struggling with Universal Credit issues.
“Our evidence has consistently shown the 5-week wait to be one of the most problematic features of UC,” she said in a statement.
“It can cause or exacerbate debt problems, as payment of rent, council tax, utilities and other priority bills may immediately be put at risk, particularly if someone has no savings or has delayed making a claim.”
For many people, the wait for Universal Credit can lead directly to them struggling to find money for everyday essentials and into the position of relying on high cost credit.
The CAS wants to see people who find themselves waiting weeks for their first Universal Credit payments to be given a “single, additional, non-refundable assessment payment” to ease the financial hardship they often experience in those moments.
The charity also wants to see the government doing more to make sure that people in Scotland and across the UK don’t need to wait weeks to receive state benefit payments they’re entitled to.
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The Scottish government has committed to spending £64 million next year to help people in all parts of the country reduce their energy bills.
Ministers of the UK government have committed to phasing out the £20 uplift in the regular payments made via the Universal Credit system.
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