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Universal Credit claimants ‘existing, not living’, says report

UNIVERSAL CREDIT (UC) is driving tenants across Scotland into debt and affecting their mental health, according a new report.

One tenant, interviewed as part of Unity Consulting’s study into the effects of the Tory flagship benefit, said: “It’s just existing, and when I think about it, I don’t know how much more I can go on like this.”

The Existing, not Living report, commissioned by Scotland’s largest social landlord, the Wheatley Group, spoke to tenants around the country to look at the impact of the social security system on their lives.

The research showed that 65 per cent of claimants believed that UC payment failed to give them enough money to cover the basics of life. 

One tenant said of her situation: “Trying to live on £243 per month, that’s horrible.

“I’m expected to pay my council tax, gas and electricity, pay debt and rent arrears.

“It’s physically impossible to pay for all that and, of course, also your internet or some kind of mobile phone with internet, which you need to have if on UC.”

A staggering 86 per cent of tenants surveyed said that claiming UC had had an adverse affect on their mental health, with one tenant saying they felt “defeated” by the system, and going on to describe it as “too hard and too humiliating for people.”

Wheatley Group housing and property management director Hazel Young said: “We first raised out concerns about UC with the UK government back in 2013 and warned them of the impact.

“A decade on, this report makes it clear it has left thousands of vulnerable people and families not just worse off, but confused ad distressed as they struggle to cope with the demands of everyday life.”

The report recommends immediate measures  to “offset the damage” done by UC, including abolishing the two-child limit and the five-week wait for new claimants, ending sanctions, ending the benefit cap, and restoring the £20 per week uplift recently removed by the British government.

Report author, Unity Consulting’s Dr Tommy Kane said: “This report is just the latest evidence that UC is not fit for purpose: that the system is designed to be punitive, and lacks compassion.

“This system should be abolished or subject to major reform and replaced with a system that helps and supports people.”

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