Highlands & Islands MSP Maree Todd has backed the latest funding boost from the Scottish Government to tackle poverty and inequality but calls on the UK government to make the Universal Credit uplift permanent.
As announced by the Finance Secretary Kate Forbes this week, a £37.2 million funding package will be used to support the delivery of two key investments:
- A further £100 COVID Hardship Payment for qualifying low income families whose children receive free meals in schools and early learning and childcare settings
- Additional funding of £20 million for councils to tackle financial insecurity at a local level, making almost £47 million available for this priority
Commenting on the funding package, SNP MSP Maree Todd said:
“I know how difficult the last year has been for many of my constituents across the islands, so a funding boost for the COVID Hardship Payment and additional funding for local authorities to help tackle financial insecurity is very much welcome.
“This extra funding will help to support people in the immediate term who may be struggling due to the pandemic.
“But whilst the Scottish Government does everything it can to support the most vulnerable, meanwhile, the Tories in Westminster are seeking to slash Universal Credit.”
Under current plans, the £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments is set to be scrapped in April, meaning the value of Universal Credit will drop by as much as a 25%. This will see single claimants under 25 receive a quarter less (£342.72 to £257.33), single claimants over 25 receive a fifth less (£409.89 to £324.84), joint claimants under 25 receive 17% less (£488.59 to £403.93) and joint claimants over 25 receive 14% less (£594.04 to £509.91).
Ms Todd adds:
“We have seen a significant rise in the number of people claiming Universal Credit in Orkney over the last year.
“The move to cut Universal Credit at a time where it is needed most is indefensible and cruel and will leave a devastating and lasting impact on many of my constituents.
“The UK Government must act now to make the £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments permanent.
“The Scottish Government is doing everything it can with the limited social security powers at our disposal to support the most vulnerable in our communities. The Tories should take note.”
SNP candidate for Orkney, Robert Leslie added his welcome for the Scottish Government’s additional funding, he said:
“At a time when support services in Orkney’s third sector and public sector continue to experience high levels of demand from some of the most vulnerable of our residents, this additional cash will be very welcome.
“I can’t help but feel we are currently providing sticking plasters, but this kind of support is crucial as we seek longer term solutions to the poverty and financial insecurity that is affecting a significant and growing number of folk in the islands. “We have seen a surge in Universal Credit claimants from 800 in August 2020, to 997 by 10th December, and for that reason I would also call on the Tory UK Government to maintain the £20 uplift, which has provided a breathing space for so many recipients.”