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  • Writer's pictureKirsten


The SNP’s Deputy Westminster Leader has called on the UK government to scrap the debt-inducing five week wait and advance payments under Universal Credit to help struggling families afford Christmas. Kirsten Oswald MP has called again on the UK government to scrap the five-week wait within Universal Credit and make advance payments non-repayable grants instead of loans to ease the struggle for many families on the run up to Christmas. Charities and anti-poverty campaigners, such as the Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, as well as the Work and Pensions Committee - who have all linked the five-week wait to increased debt and foodbank use – have also called for these steps to be taken. This week the Trussell Trust reported that almost half of people at food banks have had or face having money deducted from their benefits payments – with 73% of households on Universal Credit at food banks over the summer repaying an advance payment to the government. The Legatum Institute also reported this week that more than 15 million – 23% of the UK population – are now in poverty. Commenting, Kirsten Oswald MP said: “Whilst many will be able to splash out more than usual this Christmas to make up for the hard year we have faced – particularly those in higher-income households who have saved money during the pandemic – millions of families will struggle to afford even the basics over the festive season. “Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, a worrying number of families across the UK were struggling with debt and turning to food banks because of Tory austerity policies. The coronavirus crisis has compounded these challenges and delivered a severe hit to people’s livelihoods and households. “The figures published this week make for dire reading, and we must not forget that behind these statistics are families hit by the pandemic and in desperate need of support. “The Chancellor pledged at the start of the crisis that the UK government would do ‘whatever it takes’ to help people. That rhetoric must be met with real action - including implementing the SNP’s proposal to scrap the five-week wait and making the advance payments grants instead of loans within Universal Credit. “Beyond that he must also make the £20 Universal Credit uplift permanent and extend it to legacy benefits and he must do that now to ease the stress and worry that many families will be feeling as they wonder how they will get by next year. “This unprecedented crisis requires an unprecedented response. If the Chancellor fails to act then millions more could be pushed into debt and poverty and forced to turn to foodbanks. If the UK government chooses not to act then it must devolve the necessary powers to Holyrood so the Scottish Government can do what needs to be done to protect families across Scotland.”


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