NEW concerns of a poverty crisis in Scotland have been raised after it emerged that since the Covid 19 pandemic – amid government assistance services – the number of people claiming welfare has almost doubled.
New Jobcentre Plus figures have shown that the number of claimants in Scotland, including those earning Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance, has grown from 111,280 last November to 210,750 in November 2020.
This means that about six percent of Scotland’s working population relies on government benefits, even without the government’s job retention policy.
And Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said their research has found that one in three of them is actually operating, seeking assistance from them through Univesal Credit.
Today, they warn that if the £20 rise in Universal Credit is not made permanent, working people in Scotland will suffer an income shock.
The increasing take-up of state benefits comes despite the fact that the temporarily redundant redundancy program to help staff due to the coronavirus crisis has been extended until the end of April 2021, meaning that certain jobs will be funded for more than a year by the taxpayer.
Under the ‘Furlough’ program, which pays furloughed workers up to 80 percent of their salaries, up to a limit of £ 2,500 per month, nearly 10 million positions have now been applied for.
The scheme was set to expire last October and was then extended until the end of March, one year after it was first implemented during closures triggered by the coronavirus pandemic to help staff.
In November, it was extended on short notice, causing concerns that employers were forced to lay off workers they would have been able to maintain.
The program was expected to expire at the end of March, a year after it was first implemented to assist staff during coronavirus pandemic closures. Charities and anti-poverty organisations have lobbied the chancellor to sustain a £ 20-a-week rise in Universal Credit value, first revealed in March 2020 when the country had its first taste of lockdown of the coronavirus.
The help expires in April, and among those who have asked for the rise to be made permanent is CAS.
An study of “complex” cases of debt – where someone owes a substantial sum of money relative to their income or has several debts – reveals that even with the additional £ 20 per week, 58 percent of people in this situation are unable to cover their living costs.
But that number will increase to 80 percent if the additional payment were taken away.
CAS argues that the £ 20 raise was “a lifeline for people living on the payment” while its research reveals that a third of those receiving assistance from its network on Universal Credit are actually working.
Since April, more than 6,500 Universal Credit advice sessions have been given out by the network to clients who work part-time or full-time.
And in 2020, in addition to those in social or private tenancies, more homeowners than average have also sought assistance from the Citizens Advice Bureau network on Universal Credit.
For up to 39 weeks after filing for Universal Credit, CAS claims mortgage payers would not be eligible for assistance with housing costs. And the current additional £20 a week for this community would go a long way to covering the cost of accommodation.
CAS research reveals that homeowners are 28 per cent of new CAB customers seeking help with Universal Credit.
The charity calls for action both to improve the system of Universal Credit and to ensure that employees get a fair deal through good pay and safe working hours.
Nina Ballantyne, CAS social justice spokesperson, said, “Universal Credit is a key component of our welfare system, and during the Covid 19 pandemic, the decision last spring to increase the payment by £ 20 a week was a lifeline for many people.”
It is now necessary to continue this on a permanent basis, otherwise there is a danger that more individuals receiving Universal Credit will face an income crisis and will not be able to afford their living costs while our economy is already struggling to cope, shocked by the pandemic.
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