A Scottish Parliament committee has called on the UK government to make permanent the temporary £20 Universal Credit (UC) uplift and has expressed ‘considerable concern’ about the significant number of people unable to access social security support during the pandemic.
The findings are part of the Social Security Committee’s report into how social security can aid Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19. With the pandemic having a disproportionately negative impact on the poorest in society, the Committee highlights the urgent need to review what has been learned so far to ensure existing services are reformed and new services designed to provide people with the support they need to come through this major economic shock.
The Committee has called on the Scottish and UK governments to work together to consider the feasibility of a Citizens Basic Income (CBI) as part of the response to any future crisis. They say this is potentially a fairer way to share available support and could avoid some groups of people receiving no support at all.
Speaking as the report was published, Bob Doris MSP, social security committee convener, said: “This pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on people’s lives, particularly our most vulnerable in society.
“Social security has a critical role to play in supporting people at times of crisis and while we recognise the unprecedented support both the Scottish and UK Governments have provided, it is clear that too many people have fallen through the cracks.
“In order to protect the most vulnerable, the temporary uplift in Universal Credit must be made permanent, and more must be done to help those not currently eligible for support, particularly the newly self-employed and those with savings. A Citizens Basic Income for the duration of any future crisis may be one way to protect those who have missed out on support.
“As we know, responsibility for assistance with housing costs lies mainly with the UK Government and Scottish Ministers have very limited powers in this area. So we are calling on both Governments to work together to look at what assistance can be provided to people struggling, whatever their tenure.”
It comes as the Poverty Alliance launched A Scotland for All of Us, a package of measures that it is calling on all parties to back ahead of the Holyrood election in May, in order to loosen the grip of poverty on the lives of people across Scotland.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “In Scotland we believe in protecting one another from harm, and in the principle that every child should have every chance. Yet Scotland is also a country with unacceptably high levels of poverty and inequality.
Addressing the rising tide of poverty that is affecting so many communities should be at the heart of every party manifesto, and with the pandemic still having an impact this is not a time for timidity.
“All parties must pledge to take the bold and ambitious action that we have set out to boost incomes and reduce costs, including committing to a Minimum Income Guarantee and to taking action to create a more just economy and labour market.
“The next Scottish Parliament must be remembered as one that reshaped Scotland for the better, that prioritised the needs of those facing poverty and inequality, and that built a Scotland not just for some of us, but for all of us.”