Warning over Universal Credit roll-out in Fife

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A new call has been made to halt the roll out of Universal Credit into Fife.

It comes from Gordon Brown, in his role as patron of the Cottage Centre.

The former MP said plans to launch it just weeks before Christmas would cause ‘‘confusion, complexity and chaos.’’

Last year the centre had to provide critical support for 800 families through its festive appeal – a figure that is expected top rise in 2017 before the new controversial new benefits system kicks-in.

READ MORE: Minister must halt Universal Credit roll out in Fife

Pilot schemes have already yielded massive rent arrears, huge debts and made many families worse off – despite promises things would work out differently.

Now, Mr Brown has written to the Minister for Work and Social Security demanding that Fife families be excluded from Universal Credit.

The roll-out is due to start in Fife on December 6.

Fife Council has expressed its concern over the impact it fears it will have on people and families as new claimants will not receive benefits until January.

Mr Brown warned the introduction of Universal Credit could leave hundreds without the vital finance they need to tide them over the festive period.

Currently, there is a five-day delay in registering and then a six-week gap in payments.

Mr Brown said: “What a terrible Christmas present to give the people of Fife.

“It is simply unfair and vindictive to bring universal credit to the town just before Christmas when we know the immense suffering its introduction is causing elsewhere.

“To go ahead with a prearranged plan when there is already chaos in its introduction and to go ahead just because Fife is next in line to be targeted for Universal Credit is just wrong.

“Last Christmas 800 children were helped by the Cottage because families were earning too little to pay for their children’s presents and, in many cases, their meals.

“This was a huge eight-fold rise from the 100 children helped in 2011.

“I suspect that if Universal Credit goes ahead there will be a demand for even more relief this Christmas.

“This government knows the damage that has been done and they should now halt the introduction of the next wave of the Universal Credit programme.”

The political pressure to halt the roll-out continued as Alex Rowley MSP raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament highlighting concerns in the region.

He also wrote to all MPs asking for their support.

Mr Rowley said: “Fife Council has added its name to an ever increasing list of groups, organisations and individuals calling for a halt to the roll-out of Universal Credit.

“It joins the churches, the trade unions, third sector organisations and most political parties in demanding the Government stop the roll-out.

“The trial roll-out has shown that Universal Credit is leading to thousands of people being put at risk of rent arrears, increased debt, poverty and a reliance on charity to feed themselves.

“Why would any Government in a civilised society continue to roll out a new policy that it knows is going to hurt tens of thousands of people, will drive people into debt and towards relying on charity to feed themselves, and will result in even more people in our country being driven into poverty?

“The Tory party must think again. It must listen to civic Scotland and stop the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit.”

Mr Rowley said he welcomed Fife Council’s stance and its move to put in place arrangements aimed alleviating any impact of the roll-out.