The number of families in Perth and Kinross claiming Universal Credit has soared by 50% since the start of the pandemic.
Figures revealed by the Save the Children charity show across Scotland the number of households with children claiming the benefit has increased by 36,000 since March.
The charity has warned more parents could reach “breaking point” in the coming months as they juggle household finances amid Covid-19 restrictions.
Perth and Kinross, which has experienced widespread job losses in the tourism and hospitality sectors, has seen one of the sharpest increases in welfare claims. The number of families on Universal Credit in the region rose from 1,933 in March to 2,894 in August.
Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said: “The rise in Universal Credit claims across Perth and Kinross has been stark.
“While there is a general rise across the country, we have seen a proportionately greater rise in claimants across Perthshire.
“Largely, this is because we started from an extremely low base. That is to say that historically we have had a much lower rate of those applying for Universal Credit than in other local authority areas but I also think this has a lot to do with the sort of industries that are most prevalent across Perth and Kinross.
“We know that hospitality and tourism have been hit hard by the impacts of coronavirus, and I would expect that a number of these new Universal Credit claimants are employed directly, or indirectly, in those sectors.”
In Fife, the number of households with children claiming Universal Credit increased by 33% to 10,697. The region has the second highest number of families claiming Universal Credit behind Glasgow City.
The percentage rise in Dundee was 27%, with 4,602 families in the city claiming in August. In Angus the figure increased by 35%, from 2,134 to 2,888.
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s Head of Scotland, said the figures indicate “a worrying rise of Scottish families claiming Universal Credit since the pandemic began.”
A winter lockdown, while managing on universal credit and keeping children warm and fed, will put even more parents at breaking point.”
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s Head of Scotland.
She said the extension of the furlough scheme would not be enough to keep struggling families afloat in the months ahead.
“A winter lockdown, while managing on universal credit and keeping children warm and fed, will put even more parents at breaking point.
“Scottish Child Payment applications have already opened for families with children under six and although this offers a glimmer of hope, these payments won’t come into effect until the end of February 2021, meaning that the next four months will feel particularly tough.
“We urge Scottish Government to look at further ways to urgently provide additional financial support to struggling families to boost their incomes, through for example winter grants for school aged children and to ensure high take up of the Scottish Child Payment.
“The UK Government will also need to do more for families by providing additional support now and reassuring families that that the £20 uplift to Universal Credit won’t be taken away next April.
“With political will, we still have the opportunity to prevent families sinking into real hardship and ensure a fair and just recovery from the pandemic.”