Universal Credit starts to impact on Oban’s neediest

Lorraine MacCormick.

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Oban’s foodbank is starting to see an increase in the number of people seeking its help since Universal Credit rolled out in the town.

Lorraine MacCormick, Hope Kitchen’s manager, said the increase has been ‘tiny’ so far but the charity, which relies on volunteers and food donations to feed some of the town’s most vulnerable people, is waiting for the full impact to hit.

‘We’ve only seen a tiny increase of clients in the past month because of Universal Credit but we are waiting for it all to hit.

‘We’ve had two new clients who are on it. One, who came to us for a food parcel, has been told he will not get any money until November 30. What is he supposed to do? It’s just horrendous. People can apply for a benefits loan but it has to be paid back.

‘I think the system is slowly changing people over to it but anyone putting in a new claim will go straight on to it. We will learn the full impact as time goes on,’ she said.

Universal Credit was rolled out in Oban on Wednesday September 19, replacing six means-tested benefits payments – Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income support, Working and Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara previously warned the new system will have a ‘devastating impact’ in Argyll and would drive  more people into poverty. ‘It’s an unthinking, callous approach which victimises those who simply need an extra bit of help,’ he said.

The government’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Council, has also deemed it an ‘inefficient’ system that often caused claimants ‘difficulty and hardship’, with one in five applicants being paid late although the Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson insists Universal Credit is rolling out successfully across the country.

On Monday, Chancellor Philip Hammond insisted Universal Credit was here to stay as he pledged an extra £1 billion to help welfare claimants change over to the new system.

A total of 306,305 low income households in Scotland have been helped to pay for essential items such as food and heating through emergency grant funding since 2013.

Scottish Government’s Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: ‘As the UK Government persists with the roll out Universal Credit, forcing more and more families into poverty, we are going to continue to see an increase in people needing such support.  Scotland will have lost £3.7 billion in welfare benefits a year by the end of this decade.

“The Chancellor’s announcement of extra funding towards Universal Credit does not get close to mitigating the damaging impact of this policy and families will still have less money in their pockets and a minimum five-week delay before getting Universal Credit. Therefore we will not stop calling on the UK Government to halt the roll out of this fundamentally flawed system.’