Holyrood committee calls for Universal Credit increase to be retained
Holyrood’s Social Security Committee is calling on the UK Government to continue the £20 increase to Universal Credit.
The increase to Universal Credit and tax credits was made at the beginning of the pandemic to help struggling families, but is due to end in April.
In a letter to Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, the committee says the UK Government must also review its current policy so that 16 and 17 year olds are eligible to claim, given the impact of the pandemic on young people.
The committee is also calling on the Scottish Government to look at bringing forward uprating of the Scottish Child Payment, which is currently scheduled for April 2022.
The letter states: “A key purpose of the social security budget is to contribute to the ‘Poverty’ National Outcome.
“Social security alone cannot address poverty, but it plays an important part.
“Most indicators underpinning this national outcome have shown a stable performance until now (relative poverty, wealth inequality, cost of living, unmanageable debt, satisfaction with housing) with the exception of the ‘persistent poverty’ indicator.
“In the face of what could be an unprecedented jobs crisis, there is a high risk that these indicators will start to show a worsening picture.
“When considering the delivery, impact and funding of existing Scottish Government social security priorities and whether to propose any change of emphasis, we acknowledge the balance to be struck between crisis intervention and preventative spend.”
The committee also highlights evidence from the Scottish Fiscal Commission that the fall in applications for disability benefits may be due to the reduced availability of advice.
It believes that both the Scottish and UK Governments should work together and agree appropriate funding to promote increased uptake of all benefits.
The letter states: “Widely available welfare advice, particularly delivered locally, plays an important role in raising awareness of benefits, assisting people to claim all they are entitled to and ensuring higher rates of take-up.
“We welcome the statutory duty on the Scottish Government to promote take-up of benefits and re-state our previous recommendation that there should be a holistic approach to take-up strategies for devolved and reserved benefits.
“Our view is that both the Scottish and UK governments should work together and agree appropriate funding for a concerted effort.”