The town’s MP has spoken of his deep concerns over the imminent roll out of the Universal Credit system, which he fears will bring nothing but misery to hundreds of people.
As Peter Grant, MP for Glenrothes and Central Fife, looks ahead to a busy autumn session back at Westminster in his role as shadow SNP spokesman for Europe, the MP said he will be keeping an eye on things closer to home too as he and his team prepare for the difficulties that the UK government’s benefit reforms are expected to bring to many across the constituency.
“As the date for the roll out draws ever nearer both myself and my staff have made it a priority to be fully up to speed with every aspect of how the new system works so we can help people immediately if they are suffering difficulty or hardship,” Mr Grant said.
“I don’t think the new Universal Credit system has addressed one of the key failings of the older system which is that they assume a significant level of ability and understanding from claimants to be able to look after their own interests
“The system of form filling is pretty unforgiving if not done properly then benefits are stopped and questions are only asked later but by then the damage is already done.”
With Fife Council already publicly anticipating debt will spiral by anything up to £6m between the introduction of welfare reforms on December 6 and the end of the financial year, Mr Grant added there was an element of the unknown about the sheer scale of the situation he and his staff are likely to face.
“Exactly what impact there will be is yet to be realised, we just need to be ready,” he said.
“It’s either a blind spot or a clever piece of spin from the government who work on the notion that it is impossible to be poor if you have a job.
“We know only too well that these benefit changes are driven by the desire to save millions and to stop benefit cheats.
“I’m all for stopping benefit cheats, its just that I can’t find any, only those who are in genuine need of help.”
And he had a message for those struggling in silence.
“I fully understand that people want to hold on to their self respect, want to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families, but I absolutely call on them to seek help with us or the other support agencies and we will do all we possibly can to help them through the problems.”
Meanwhile as the Brixit negotiations enter a crucial phase in shaping the UK as it prepares to exit the EU, Mr Grant, in his position both as shadow European spokesman for the SNP, and as a member of the Brexit Select Committee, he will certainly have his work cut out.
“This is going to take the majority of parliament’s time, there remains huge uncertainty and risk in our exit from Europe and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” said Mr Grant.
Frustrated by the lack of scrutiny and the failure of any committee to bring a minister before it to answer questions on the progress of the Brexit negotiations, Mr Grant is preparing for a busy period between now and the new year.