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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Universal Credit must be overhauled says its creator

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​Universal Credit mastermind joins chorus of calls for urgent reform

The architect of the controversial Universal Credit (UC) system has joined calls for its urgent reform.

Claimants are being plunged into desperation and uncertainty because of the roll-out of the new benefit, which combines six payments in one.

The main problem is the at least six week wait people will have before they receive cash.

This has led to people getting into serious arrears and being threatened with eviction.

Dr Stephen Brien

The benefits system needs to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable

Dr Stephen Brien

Now Dr Stephen Brien, whose 2009 report formed the basis for the scheme, has said waiting times must be reduced to four weeks.

UC springs from Dr Brien’s time as the head of the Tory-linked Centre for Social Justice think tank.

His report, Dynamic Benefits, outlined what would become UC, and he went on to work for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), shaping the benefit into its present form.

He told the BBC that UC now faces significant operational problems.

Dr Brien said: "We should be looking at something much closer to a four-week process.

"When we are looking at a group of people who have lost their job, to expect them to take six weeks on their own back without getting any cash is a challenging one.

"I think we have to recognise that the benefits system needs to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable as much as it focuses on getting people back to work."

Scotland’s charities have joined the likes of labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in demanding a halt to UC.

As reported in TFN, 24 groups, including Citizens Advice Scotland, Oxfam Scotland, Disability Agenda Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Poverty Alliance, want the process, currently undergoing a phased roll—out, stopped in its tracks.

This week, UC was slated in Scottish Government experience panels which asked people with real experience of having endured the Westminster welfare system what they thought of it.

Prime Minister Theresa May defended the system in the Commons on this week, but there is speculation political pressure may lead to concessions being made in next week’s budget.

The DWP says UC will boost the amount of people moving off benefits and into work.

A spokeswoman said: "Under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than the old system.”