Scottish Affairs Committee launches welfare inquiry
The Scottish Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into the impact of welfare reforms in Scotland.
The Westminster committee will look into how the introduction of Universal Credit and the devolution of some welfare powers has affected the lives of benefits claimants and levels of inequality and poverty across the country.
It will also examine the effect of an increased demand on the welfare system caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The committee says that claimants in Scotland currently receive £19.5bn in welfare payments, but the system has undergone cuts and a series of reforms in recent years.
A surge in demand since the pandemic struck has also led to the number of people claiming Universal Credit in Scotland almost doubling to nearly 474,000 in August.
While the pandemic has also delayed the rollout of some new Scottish Government benefits, the committee is also interested in what effect ‘Scottish Choices’ has had in the administration of some benefits.
Examples of Scottish Choices include the changes to the delivery of Universal Credit to allow fortnightly payments and direct payment of rent to landlords.
Committee chair Pete Wishart said: "Welfare provision is a critical lifeline when people fall on hard times, whether it’s by topping up low wages, helping to keep a roof over the heads of you and your family, or to go toward childcare while you earn a living.
"And times have got harder. Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on Scotland; thousands have lost their jobs while healthcare professionals have reported a significant increase in mental health consultations.
"With many more now needing help, the crisis would have made any pre-existing problems with welfare that much more acute.
"However, Universal Credit continues to face problems that are driving people further into poverty. We’ve been concerned by reports of people in remote locations feeling locked out of the system by its digital-first application process."