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Highland MP calls on the UK government to take action as tough new poverty report says Westminster must match Holyrood in supporting vulnerable people

By Scott Maclennan

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MP Drew Hendry.
MP Drew Hendry.

Highland MP Drew Hendry has renewed calls on the UK Government to make the Covid increase to Universal Credit permanent and extend it to legacy benefits to mark the start of Challenge Poverty Week.

His call follows a new report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which recommends that the UK government maintain the temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit beyond April 2021 and extend it to all legacy benefits.

The report also sets out how Westminster must do more to match Scottish Government efforts in tackling poverty, which recently rolled out the Scottish Child Payment which could support up to 194,000 children this year.

Mr Hendry highlighted that locally there has already been a five per cent rise in people claiming Universal Credit while there could be more on the horizon with the furlough scheme set to end.

“At a time when the requirement for further UK Government action to tackle child poverty has never been more significant, this report is welcome from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation,” Mr Hendry said.

“These are serious times, and the UK government must start matching Scottish Government efforts if they are serious about tackling child poverty.

“The £20 increase to Universal Credit must be made permanent and needs extending to legacy benefits. This action alone could lift 25,000 children out of poverty and benefit 1.3 million Scots, including many people living in the Highlands.

“I am also renewing calls on the Chancellor to make Universal Credit advance payments non-repayable grants instead of loans. The current system leaves people in debt by default.

“The Chancellor is failing to put in place adequate support for families impacted by Covid and with the furlough scheme nearing an end, people already face challenging times ahead.

“By refusing to help and in denying the Scottish Parliament powers to borrow money, the Tories are preventing the Scottish Government from doing more to help the people the UK government are ignoring.

“Locally, we have already seen a five per cent increase in Universal Credit claimants since the beginning of the year, with a 15 per cent increase in those seeking help with housing costs.

“With unemployment expected to rise to levels not seen in over a decade and people’s working hours and incomes cut back, more is needed to support families left struggling to make ends meet.

“The Tories are failing Scottish families and must not raid the pockets of the most vulnerable in upcoming budgets; instead, they need to protect them, and put in place meaningful financial support.”

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