Universal Credit has driven hundreds of thousands of families into poverty and to foodbanks, Scottish welfare charities claim.
The benefit was first piloted in Inverness eight years ago and introduced with the aim of simplifying the welfare system.
However, many have argued that the need to wait five weeks for a payment and stricter rules on eligibility has caused more harm than good.
Marion Davis, head of policy at One Parent Families Scotland, told MPs the benefit had unleashed a “tsunami of misery”.
Ms Davies, appearing before the Scottish Affairs committee, said it is “crucial” the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is made permanent, warning: “If there’s a cut it is going to bring 200,000 children into poverty.”
The £20 uplift – brought in at the onset of the pandemic last March – is due to end on March 31.
Universal credit uplift ‘fundamental’
Appearing before the same committee, Kirsty McKechnie, welfare rights worker at Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, said: “It’s fundamental for us to retain the £20 uplift.
“We talk about so many different varieties of poverty, child poverty, food poverty, period poverty, the thing that is absolutely consistent is the poverty and the way to alleviate poverty is to give people more money.
“If people have got the money, you don’t need to then come up with replacement things to address those problems. It also means that individuals retain their dignity.”
Asked if Universal Credit is pushing foodbank usage higher, Ms McKechnie said: “One of the local authorities that I have spoken with did some analysis of the Scottish welfare fund and foodbank usage and found that a large majority of people were using it because of Universal Credit.
“That’s not just because of the five-week wait, it’s also increasingly because they weren’t managing to have the money last from one payment to the next.
“I think this is largely because Universal Credit is, on the majority, less generous than the legacy benefits that it is replacing.”
Nina Ballantyne, policy manager at Citizens Advice Scotland, confirmed that the CAB had seen an uptick in queries over foodbanks due to Universal Credit.
She said: “Foodbank advice is up around 40% over the last nine months, that won’t all be Universal Credit related, but we’ve seen the five-week wait forcing people down that road.”