A Dundee emergency food provider is expecting to see increasing numbers of families pushed into poverty as a result of the cut to Universal Credit.
The UK Government is preparing to reduce payments by £20-a-week from October 6 – the equivalent to £1,040 a year – in the biggest cut to the basic rate of social security since the Second World War.
More than 32,000 youngsters across Tayside and Fife will be impacted by the cut, new figures have revealed, with more than 19,000 in Fife and more than 8,000 in Dundee.
Jacky Close, of the Dundee Food Insecurity Network, said it feels like a “tidal wave coming to hit people” unless the UK Government changes direction.
She said the removal of the Universal Credit uplift – coupled with rising food prices due to Brexit – will see “increasing numbers of families” seeking food support.
The emergency food provider brings together 26 local grassroots and small community-based projects from across the city.
Ms Close said: “Our concern is that we’re going to see that increase of people pushed into poverty, forced into a place where they really can’t afford to pay for fuel or food and they’re going to have to access support from charitable organisations.
“We are looking at this and we’re very concerned about what’s coming ahead for people and the impact it’s going to have on mental health and well-being, on their ability to cope through the winter, really big concerns across all third sector organisations.”
North-east Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain said the “callous and needless cut will hang thousands of children and families out to dry, impacting communities in every corner of Fife”.
It comes after we revealed last month that Fife was among the worst-hit constituencies in Scotland.
She added: “Many people were already struggling under the strain of our broken welfare system, even before the pandemic struck.
“Without this much-needed uplift some households simply won’t be able to make ends meet.
“This measure was only a first step on the road to tackle age-based inequality and child poverty.
“We should be going much much further, not backward. Instead, the UK Government is ignoring all the warning signs and abandoning people when they need help the most.
“If ever there was a time when we should be investigating a guaranteed minimum basic income for all, it’s now.”
‘Right these measures are removed’
We revealed Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross defended plans to cut Universal Credit, despite more than 3,000 families in his Moray constituency facing having their benefits slashed.
The Tory MSP remains tight-lipped on his personal opinion of the plan, but confirmed he did not disagree with the approach taken by the UK Government.
When asked his position, a spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said the party had successfully campaigned for £20 uplift to be extended by six months.
The spokesman added: “These funds provided a safety net to nearly half a million vulnerable people in Scotland at an unprecedented, uncertain time.
“But with restrictions largely gone and our recovery under way, it is right that these measures are reviewed as the focus shifts to helping people get back into work.
“It is right that the UK Government considers carefully how it will start to pay back what has been spent during this crisis.”
Nicola Sturgeon said Boris Johnson would expose an “absence of basic humanity and moral compass” if he goes ahead with the cut.
Speaking at the SNP conference, she warned the move would “drive people into debt and, in some cases, to destitution and despair”.
A UK Government spokesman said the uplift to Universal Credit was “always temporary” and “was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic”.
He added: “Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”
“The Scottish Parliament has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.”