SNP Renew Calls for Stronger Welfare Protections

DWP must make universal credit more flexible after 500,000 apply.

The SNP has renewed calls for the UK government to strengthen welfare protections after the Work and Pensions Secretary ruled out implementing immediate grants instead of advance hardship loans – despite half a million people applying for Universal Credit in the last nine days

In this morning’s Work and Pensions Committee, Therese Coffey claimed that it would not be “operationally feasible” to make advance loans into non-repayable grants to reduce the five-week wait and denied that the 70,000 people – of 273,000 Universal credit applications – who applied for an advance payment last week were now in debt to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

SNP Work and Pensions Committee Member, Chris Stephens MP (pictured) has said that if Universal Credit – which was designed to be “agile” – is not adapted to support people affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic then thousands more could be plunged into debt at the hands of the DWP.

The SNP has consistently called for the UK government to strengthen welfare protections in response to the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak on Saturday, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford urged the UK government to increase Child Benefit and make Universal Credit more flexible, proposing a package of practical measures.

Commenting, Chris Stephens MP said:

“The coronavirus lockdown makes it even more vital that welfare protections are strengthened now, so that all those affected by this unprecedented emergency receive the support they need – including the millions of freelancers, self-employed and unemployed people who are struggling to get by.

“The SNP is calling for the UK government to deliver urgent support by increasing Child Benefit and making Universal Credit more flexible by introducing an immediate upfront payment instead of a loan, providing a new one-off hardship payment for self-employed people, and removing the rule that prevents those with £16,000 of savings from claiming.

“The UK government must think again and introduce these sensible measures so no one is left behind.

“With half a million new Universal Credit applications, the SNP will continue to press the UK government to deliver the support that is needed now.”