Esther McVey says ‘personalised’ Universal Credit works – as 5,000 Scots get benefits-related emergency grants

© Paul ReidDWP Secretary Esther McVey at Brechin Campus with John Forster, owner and chairman, and roofer Jack Davey.
DWP Secretary Esther McVey at Brechin Campus with John Forster, owner and chairman, and roofer Jack Davey.

The UK Welfare Secretary has insisted the Universal Credit system gets Scots back to work as it emerged more than 5,000 people needed emergency grants last year because of benefit delays.

Conservative minister Esther McVey visited Forster Group in Brechin with Angus MP Kirstene Hair on Tuesday to learn about the company’s training programme for young people and its new Construction Learning Centre.

Figures released by the Scottish Government showed 7,385 households received crisis cash in Tayside and Fife over the past five years.

Nationally, that figure was more than 48,000 with one in ten citing delayed benefits payments as the reason for requiring the handout.

Ms McVey argued the UK Government’s controversial system works by personalising training to help people back into work.

She said: “I gave a very recent speech about what is the vision of the welfare state and that personalised support as we live in a technological world and age.

“How do we empower the individual through whether it’s training, getting a job, how do we do that in a modern society? That IT, that training, that budgeting is key but it is all about personalisation.

“It is about allowing the individual to fulfil their potential in whatever sphere that is. Today we are specifically looking at construction, we are looking at roofing, we are looking at solar powers, but that is what we’ve got to do across the board.

“That is what it is all about. Support for the individual to fulfil their potential.”

Scotland’s employment rate stands at 75.5%, an increase of 1.4 percentage points on last year.

Yet a total of 296,520 households across the country have been helped by the Scottish Welfare Fund since it was established by ministers in April 2013.

In just the first three months of 2018, Scots received £1,451,162 so they could buy food, with a further £519,418 going towards helping people heat their homes.

SNP Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Sommerville said she was pleased Scottish ministers had been able to provide a “vital lifeline” to households in need.

She also stated she was “angry” that UK Government welfare cuts were pushing more people into poverty.

Ms Sommerville said: “Any of us can face an unexpected expense. But that is harder to absorb if you are already struggling to survive.

“At those times it is only right that government offers support rather than a cold shoulder.”

Powers over a number of benefits, including carers’ allowances, disability assistance and maternity grants, are being transferred to Holyrood although there have been concerns the timescale might slip because of problems setting up an IT system.

The Forster Group is Scotland’s largest roofing and solar company today with its new learning centre providing training for courses including a Modern Apprenticeship (NVQ) qualification in new build roofing. A new intake of 12 apprentices is scheduled for August.

Ms Hair said: “The skills academy provides fantastic training opportunities for young people and I was pleased to see there are so many apprentices on board again this year.”