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Highland Council leader welcomes evidence calling for Universal Credit starter payments to bridge the five week processing time delay

By Scott Maclennan

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Council leader Margaret Davidson.
Council leader Margaret Davidson.

The leader of Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson, has welcomed a call for starter payments to provide financial support during the wait for first Universal Credit payment.

The findings of a report by the work and pensions committee published today highlight a starter payment should be made to people claiming Universal Credit (UC) for the first time.

Such payments would mean people have enough money for basics such as food and heating during the wait that is sometimes up to five weeks for their initial monthly payment.

The Highlands has lived with the problems of the Universal Credit system longer than most areas because it was trialled in the north before anywhere else. The council also claims that it has never been refunded millions of pounds in costs for rolling out the system.

Cllr Davidson said: “Highland has been hit hard by the many shortfalls arising from the UK government’s benefit scheme.

“The five-week wait for the first payment is driving many of our residents into debt and putting strain on the relationships between landlords and their tenants.

“I very much welcome the work and pensions committee’s findings and indeed have been lobbying the UK government for some years on a number of these issues.”

The work and pensions committee is also calling on the government to make permanent the £20 per week increase in the standard Universal Credit allowance announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Davidson added: “Many of our tenants have been struggling over recent months as a result of the ongoing pandemic. We are here to offer help and support.

“For those claiming benefits, particularly those who are having to make a benefit claim for the first time, the Universal Credit system can be complex, but our staff are trained to help tenants with a wide range of tailored advice and support.

“Our Welfare Support Team has done a tremendous job supporting many tenants to claim Universal Credit and to ensure their payments continue.”

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