Letter from leading organisations wants controversial scheme suspended
Leading campaigners and organisation in Scotland have joined to demand an immediate halt to Universal Credit until the process of legislating for new powers is complete.
An open letter to secretary of state for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith - signed by the leaders of 57 civic organisations from across Scotland ranging from business and finance to social care and foodbanks – demands a halt to the scheme, scheduled to start in February.
Recommendations for extra powers by the Smith Commission have yet to be put in place in after it published its report in December last year.
The letter states: “Any system of welfare has to be safe and secure. Driving through Universal Credit in Scotland at this stage will create unnecessary administrative complication in an already complex process.
“The sensible way to roll-out Universal Credit in Scotland is to do it once, when the Scotland-specific elements have been carefully planned and incorporated into it.
“This would avoid wasting precious time and scarce resources, and would protect vulnerable people in our society from bureaucratic change that could wreak havoc.”
Driving through Universal Credit in Scotland at this stage will create unnecessary administrative complication
A key recommendation of the Smith Commission was to significantly improve intergovernmental working between Westminster and Holyrood with the letter stating the suspension of the scheme was a golden opportunity to do just that.
“So we ask you to act immediately to suspend the next phase of the roll-out of Universal Credit in Scotland, before it is scheduled to start in February,” implored the organisations.
And, they add: “Our diverse, united voices demonstrate that our call is not about politics. It is about protecting the most vulnerable people in our society and creating an effective, robust new system for delivering welfare. Our call is about responsible, effective governance.”
The letter has been coordinated by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) whose members have been part of the Universal Credit pilot
Mary Taylor, SFHA chief executive, said: “With the next phase of Universal Credit due to be rolled out in February Iain Duncan Smith MP still has time to take the decision to suspend that process in Scotland, and the Smith Agreement gives him a legitimate reason to do that.
“With the backing of so many respected voices from across civic Scotland, we hope the secretary of state will choose to give further time for the new Scottish powers to be integrated into Universal Credit, thus protecting the most vulnerable people in our society and creating an effective, robust new system for delivering welfare.”