The Scottish Government squeezed three small concessions from Westminster on Universal Credit. First, people in Scotland can chose whether their housing element is paid direct to their landlord. And second, we can choose to have payments made twice a month rather than monthly. The trouble is that this is done by delaying half the payment for even longer. You will already have waited five or six weeks for your first Universal Credit payment – and likely got into debt as a result. Then at the end of the next month you will only receive half the amount. As a special concession you will be allowed to wait a further 15 days for the rest. When we met Stevie outside the jobcentre he had just discovered what twice monthly payments really meant, and had asked to go back on monthly payments as he couldn’t last on what he had received. (To make matters worse, he had been told that the wait was 3 weeks rather than 15 days, which is simply wrong.) Twice monthly payments can make it easier to plan – but not if you have to get into debt first.
Oh – and the third concession. Well, people in Scotland are supposed to get the option to receive Universal Credit individually instead of as a single payment for the household, but it seems that the Scottish Government hasn’t actually been given a mechanism that allows them to make that happen without the consent of both partners, so that third concession has been left on an inaccessible shelf.
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Despite growing public concern about Universal Credit, Dundee jobcentre hasn’t given up trying to persuade people to shift onto the new system before they have to. We had reassured David that he didn’t have to move from JSA, but when he emerged from the jobcentre he informed us that they had found another way to make his life more difficult. Now that he has been unemployed for 18 months they are making him come into the jobcentre weekly. This was a fairly common practice a few years back, but we hadn’t come across it recently.
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We have just learnt that our petition on mitigating welfare cuts will finally be discussed by the Scottish Government Social Security Committee on Thursday. Here is the agenda. You will be able to watch the discussion on line here.