Scrap five-week wait for Universal Credit plea from Buckie councillor
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A BUCKIE councillor has called on the waiting period for Universal Credit (UC) to be scrapped in a bid to alleviate debt problems.
New claimants for UC can find themselves with a wait of around five weeks or so between submitting their claim for benefits and receiving their first payment.
For Buckie SNP councillor Sonya Warren, this length of time is simply exacerbating an already bad situation for families and individuals who are living hand to mouth.
She said: "It's extremely concerning as so many families are already struggling with debt.
"Having to wait five weeks for the first payment of this so-called safety net is a major challenge for many. The UK government should scrap the five-week waiting time to help alleviate the stress and burden on families at what is a very challenging time.
"The figures from the Trussell Trust clearly demonstrate that more and more families are turning to food banks. This should not be the norm for our communities.
"Evidence for this is clearly being seen in Buckie with the Buckie food bank reporting its busiest week recently.
"The Scottish Government's approach to helping folk is different, our social securitysystem is built on dignity and respect, but key powers are retained by Westminster."
On January 5, Buckie food bank distributed 41 food parcels to help 85 people, with another two emergency parcels for three people the next day. This compares to just distributed five food parcels handed out on the same week in 2020 to help nine people.
UC statistics for Buckie and the surrounding area from last November - prior to the current lockdown - make grim reading.
Central Buckie recorded 321 people on the benefit, while the Buckie West and Mains of Buckie area added a further 312 to the total.
In the section of Moray spanning Portgordon, Mosstodloch and seaward there were some 154 claimants and in nearby Fochabers, Aultmore, Clochan and Ordequish 165 people were relying on UC.
The largest concentration, however, was in Portknockie, Findochty, Drybridge and Berryhillock where the total stood at 385.
Councillor Warren continued: "It's quite an alarming rise in numbers claiming Universal Credit in Buckie.
"It's concerning to know that these figures are continuing to rise as the pandemic continues to affect us.
"There had been a dramatic downturn in many local businesses profitability due to the restrictions that we are having to endure with many of them having to think outside the box and be very creative to be able to keep trading. However, large numbers of folk are losing their jobs.
"More families are having to turn to universal credit in order to survive, this is not easy and the impact of this on our children and young people is vast."
A UK government spokesman said that help was available for those who found themselves in difficult circumstances while waiting for their first UC payment.
“With Universal Credit no-one has to wait five weeks to be paid, as urgent advances are available.
"We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families through the pandemic and beyond to ensure that nobody is left behind. That’s why we’ve targeted our support to those most in need by raising the living wage, spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs, boosting welfare support by billions.
"The UK government has also provided an additional £8.6 billion in funding to the Scottish Government to tackle the pandemic in Scotland.”
While the furlough scheme is in place until the end of March, paying 80 per cent of wages, this can still leave those on low wages who were struggling to get by on full pay struggling to make ends meet.