Iain Gray MSP has spoken out about East Lothian’s experience of Universal Credit during a debate at the Scottish Parliament on the roll out of the controversial new benefit.
Mr Gray used the Holyrood debate to highlight recent reports published by the County’s Citizens Advice Bureaux and East Lothian Council which document the negative experiences of local claimants.
These include long delays in receiving initial payments, the majority experiencing a loss of income, resulting in increased debt and poverty, and feeling poorly supported through the process.
Following the debate Mr Gray joined the majority of his MSP colleagues in voting for a motion calling on the UK Government to halt the roll out of Universal Credit.
Speaking after the debate, Iain Gray MSP said:
“Universal credit replaces a six other benefits, and East Lothian was the first part of Scotland in which everyone receiving benefits was “migrated” on to the new Universal Credit. Introduced by the UK Conservative government, Universal Credit was originally meant to simplify benefits rather than save money.
“East Lothian CABs and East Lothian Council have looked at what the impact has been on local people of moving to the new benefit. It is clear that the impact is very negative, with most people losing income, many being forced into debt, rent arrears or using the foodbank to survive.
“However, there have been wider impacts on affected families and individuals too, with the stress of managing on less taking a toll. East Lothian Council staff who work with tenants in arrears have had to be given suicide awareness training for the first time ever.
“All this matters a great deal, because East Lothian was first, but now Universal Credit is being rolled out everywhere – so these effects are about to be felt right across the UK.
“I was pleased to have the chance during this debate to highlight the evidence from East Lothian which adds up to a powerful case for stopping that roll out to other parts of the country and thinking again.”