Kirk leaders in Glasgow call for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be halted

Church of Scotland leaders have urged the UK Government to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit in its present form without delay.

The Presbytery of Glasgow said it was “deeply concerned” about the level of distress and serious hardship the policy will have on many vulnerable people.

Universal Credit
Glasgow church leaders fears the controversial policy will cause further unnecessary distress on vulnerable people.

Universal credit merges six benefits into one monthly payment but critics say people will have to wait for at least five weeks for their first payment.

The controversial policy has been linked to food banks and a contribution to a rise in debt, rent arrears and evictions.

Rev George Cowie, the Presbytery Clerk, has written to Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds.

The MP has been told it “seems perverse in the extreme” to add to the difficulties of those who are most in need of help.

Unacceptable

In the letter, the Presbytery of Glasgow has highlighted several areas of concern including a five-week wait for the first payment, a reduction of Work Allowances, payment delays and IT access problems for some claimants.

The letter states: “The Presbytery is deeply concerned about the level of distress and serious hardship which the roll out of Universal Credit, in its present form, has introduced to the lives of many of the most vulnerable people in society.

“While the continuing debate around the overall efficacy of these measures remains unresolved, it is completely unacceptable that the day to day living conditions of those most affected by them should be ignored.

"As Housing Benefit is now included in Universal Credit and is therefore affected by the rules which are being applied to its implementation, it is difficult to see how people can avoid accumulating arrears in their housing payments."

Political dogma

The letter said the problem has been exacerbated by the closure of six Job Centres in Glasgow.

It went on: “It seems perverse in the extreme to add to the difficulties of those who are most in need of help, when a pause in the implementation of the new policy would allow for the required changes and adjustments to be made without inflicting further unnecessary distress on them.

“Your department has already made changes to Universal Credit in light of the significant public concerns which have been expressed, but has to date refused to halt the roll out of services for which many charities and faith groups have been calling.

“We would ask that you now do so.

“There is no place for blind adherence to political dogma when such a course of action can only result in additional difficulty for those who are already in the most vulnerable of positions.”