A Government Minister has turned down an invite to come to Kirkcaldy to see the impact Universal Credit is having on local families.
Amber Rudd, Minister for Employment, knocked the request back to Aloka Sharma MP who will now meet with Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, in Westminster.
Rudd had been invited to come to Kirkcaldy by Ms Laird – and her request was backed by a dozen local charities.
The Minister gave a written reply to the concerns raised over a 65 per cent rise in food bank use across the Kingdom since the roll out of Universal Credit.
Mr Sharma wrote: “Food banks represent an impressive response by civil society and faith groups to support vulnerable people, and the reasons for people using food banks are complex.”
But his response was dismissed by Kirkcaldy Foodbank as “a typical political non-answer.”
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Joyce Leggate, who chairs the charity, “To minimise the effect that foodbanks have in addressing the gap caused by an ineffective, vindictive benefits system is a disgrace and it is not, as it suggests, a few good-hearted people helping others. It is a local society response to the dreadful circumstances that people have been left in often due to no fault of their own.
“We would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Alok Sharma and discuss this in further detail.”
Mr Sharma denied that the DWP was unable to “speedily” process rent being paid directly to landlords in Universal Credit cases.
He did, however, state that he was aware of “feedback in terms of the payment scheduling” and was reviewing this.
Maureen Closs, People’s Assembly Fife, branded that reply a “disgrace”.
“We know first-hand how much people suffer under the Universal Credit system,” she commented. “A man sanctioned for a month for turning up just two minutes late for an appointment is just one of many, many examples.
“People who instruct the DWP to pay landlords direct find themselves with massive rent arrears because the DWP’s computer system doesn’t work. Ironically these tenants are hit by 20 per cent deductions in benefits often for £1200 rent arrears that shouldn’t exist, and left with £50 a week to live on.
“This system is bringing people to their knees, without a doubt.”
Ms Laird has accepted Mr Sharma’s invitation to meet him in Westminster.
She said: “It’s disappointing that Amber Rudd didn’t take up our invitation to Fife. She admitted earlier this year that Universal Credit was contributing to a rise in food banks and may have listened to our concerns.
“Instead Alok Sharma’s tone-deaf response strongly indicates this government is wilfully standing by a system which it knows doesn’t work.
“I’ll be forcefully pointing out to him that this government should be ashamed of the fact that charities – which have become a de facto welfare state - are being brought to breaking point as they try and cope with demand.
“This cruel and callous government needs to recognise the damage its policies are having, especially on children, and do something to change it - now.”