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MP Drew Hendry demands halt to Univesral Credit rollout and repayment of £3 million to Highland Council after north was made a 'guinea pig' for the welfare policy

By Scott Maclennan

Drew Hendry.
Drew Hendry.

Further delays and an extra £500 million bill for the UK government’s botched Universal Credit welfare scheme have prompted Highland MP Drew Hendry to call for its rollout to be halted.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry lashed out at the Conservative government suspend its flagship welfare policy amid more and more families falling into debt and destitution.

It is understood that the next stage of the rollout out has been delayed to a new date in late 2024, adding a staggering £500 million to the total cost of the policy.

That is according to a BBC programme called Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State that is scheduled to air tonight.

Mr Hendry has long campaigned against Universal Credit after Inverness was chosen as one of five pilot areas for Universal Credit six years ago before being introduced across the rest of the Highlands.

Critics claim the impact of the welfare policy has been disastrous on thousands of families and has led to a huge increase in foodbank demand across the region.

In parliament, Mr Hendry told department of work and pensions minister Will Quince that by 2024 his constituents in Inverness “will have endured over 10 years of Universal Credit with no protection over transition. That is 10 years of chaos, delays and hardship.”

He then called on the Minister to stump up compensation for those who have had to endure Universal Credit, along with compensation for the Highland Council as the local authority continues to “foot the bill for additional administration costs.”

Mr Hendry said: “The Tory government’s attempts to roll out its hated flagship welfare policy has been dogged with delays, chaos, and has inflicted hardship on those caught at the sharp end.

“It should shame the Tories that the continued delays and issues surrounding Universal Credit have added a staggering £500 million to its total cost, while families are increasingly having to turn to food banks to survive.

“By 2024, people living here will have endured this chaotic and punishing system for 10 years – this is a system the Government acknowledges is flawed and it’s just not on.

“Families continue to be pushed into poverty and debt and people are still having to wait five weeks before their payments come through.

“Local third sector agencies have already been pushed to the limit, housing associations are having to pause new building projects while they cover the unprecedented levels of debt associated with arrears created by Universal Credit and the Highland Council have already footed over £3 million to meet the costs of administering the flawed system.

“It’s high time the Tories took steps to end the hardship by immediately halting the rollout of Universal Credit and move urgently to fix the policy."

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