Martin Docherty-Hughes, MP for West Dunbartonshire, has called on the Tory UK government to halt the roll-out of its damaging flagship welfare policy in Scotland.

The SNP MP has added his backing to demands for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be stopped following damning evidence that the Tory government’s welfare changes are pushing families into financial hardship.

Universal Credit replaces several existing benefits including housing benefit, tax credits and unemployment benefit and is currently being introduced in pilot areas in Scotland and across the UK.

Local welfare support agencies including Citizens Advice Scotland have expressed concerns about flaws in the Universal Credit online system, citing evidence that it is leading to hardship for vulnerable claimants who are faced with debt problems and the threat of homelessness.

In East Dunbartonshire – one of the pilot areas for the welfare changes – it has been revealed that 92% of tenants on Universal Credit are in rent arrears, with families being forced into debt whilst waiting over six weeks for their first benefit payment.

West Dunbartonshire is scheduled to transition fully to Universal Credit in June next year – with a full roll-out across the UK due by the end of the 2018.

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“The UK government’s introduction of Universal Credit has been nothing less than a shambles; unnecessarily pushing already struggling and impoverished families further into poverty. Evidence shows that it is failing the very people the welfare system is designed to support and the Tory UK government must urgently rethink the further roll-out of Universal Credit in West Dunbartonshire and across the country.

“In the areas of Scotland where Universal Credit has been introduced so far, including neighbouring East Dunbartonshire, there is clear evidence that the most vulnerable in society are facing severe financial hardship as a result of flaws in the UC system. This includes families being forced into debt whilst waiting over six weeks for a first payment, relying on foodbanks to survive and in some cases facing the threat of homelessness due to rent arrears.

“Universal Credit is due to be rolled-out in West Dunbartonshire next year and I know from speaking with constituents and local welfare advice agencies that there is serious concern about the devastating impact it will on people locally.

“The UK government’s continued austerity agenda and stubborn refusal to listen to concerns about its flagship welfare policy is unacceptable. The Universal Credit system clearly needs a rethink and I would urge UK Ministers to take urgent action to prevent more families being needlessly driven into financial crisis.”