As the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions completes a whistle-stop tour of Scotland, including visits to Stirling and Fife, the SNP has challenged her to come face to face with people driven into using foodbanks as a result of Tory welfare policies – and to realise that calling a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit is long overdue.
Stirling, which rolled out full service Universal Credit in June last year, has suffered the worst effects of the UK government’s ill-thought-out welfare regime with the policy leading to a “consequential increase” in foodbank use, an “increased risk of potential homelessness”, a sharp rise in rent arrears, a hike in applications for temporary accommodation and hundreds of Crisis Grants issued, according to a report by Stirling Council.
Research undertaken by the SNP revealed that local authorities across Scotland have spent several million pounds mitigating the damaging impact of Universal Credit – public money which has been diverted away from delivering vital local services.
The number of food bank referrals made by Stirling Council in 2016 was 245. However, this jumped to a total of 412 in 2017 – a record number of referrals.
For the first three months of 2017, there were 66 food bank referrals (prior to Universal Credit being fully implemented). This has more than doubled for the first three months of 2017 (with Universal Credit fully implemented) with 142 referrals being made between January and March this year.
Commenting, Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford said:
“The Tories ‘flagship’ welfare policy isn’t working. Universal Credit is driving more people into poverty, causing severe hardship and stress and forcing people into relying upon foodbanks, just to get by.
“It’s an unthinking, callous approach which victimises those who simply need an extra bit of help.
“Perhaps Esther McVey might use the last day of her visit to Scotland to come face to face with some foodbank users who have felt the brunt of Tory welfare cuts. Despite staring an overwhelming body of evidence in the face, the Tories still continue to deny a link between their disastrous policies and a rise in the use of foodbanks.
“But the reality in my constituency, and across Scotland, is that where Universal Credit is failing, people are suffering – and the Scottish Government, local councils and the third sector are left to pick up the pieces.
“It’s time to recognise that the rollout of Universal Credit has been a failure, the human price has been too high and the time is long overdue for it to be halted.”