Renfrewshire MP Gavin Newlands has renewed calls for the UK government to axe the five-week wait for Universal Credit – after a minister admitted they “didn’t really consider” the measure, which would help thousands of people get financial support.
The Paisley and Renfrewshire North MP said the admission in yesterdays Work and Pensions Committee was “shocking” – and meant the government had ‘deliberately’ chosen to leave people without the support they need, despite a record 1.5million Universal Credit claims.
In addition, Neil Couling, Director General of Change Group within the DWP, admitted in the meeting that lifting the benefits cap would not be “the most difficult thing to do” despite previous UK government claims it would be “operationally challenging”.
Mr Newlands has said the SNP has consistently called for the UK government to strengthen welfare protections by scrapping the five-week wait, reversing the benefit cap, and introducing a guaranteed minimum income for everyone.
He said: “It is shocking that the Tory government didn’t even consider scrapping the five-week wait for Universal Credit – and has instead deliberately chosen to leave thousands of people without the financial support they need.
“This callous Tory policy is needlessly pushing people into hardship – and has left many households waiting for weeks or months before they can get support.
“The UK government must now scrap the five-week wait, turn the loans already given into emergency grants, and ensure all new claims are given automatic grants – to prevent millions from being plunged into debt and poverty.
“The Chancellor previously claimed he would do whatever it takes to help people affected by the coronavirus crisis – so now the UK government must follow through on that commitment and strengthen welfare protections so people get the help they need.”
He added: “If the UK government had listened to our calls to introduce a Universal Basic Income at the start of this crisis, the huge difficulties people are now facing could have been avoided.
“For a decade Tory austerity and welfare policies have been removing the safety net that we may all need at some point in our lives. It is vital the Tories now reverse damaging cuts like the benefits cap and urgently put support back in place if we are going to help people through this crisis.”