Some Harsh Universal Credit Lessons

Our family, friends and neighbours are being forced to pay premium rates to use the Universal Credit Helpline at a time when they are already struggling financially.

Universal Credit has been a nightmare for many people in Midlothian, and for people across the UK.

I want the Government to accept that to date, the roll out of this new benefit system has been misguided and detrimental to those who are claiming it in Midlothian. They have rolled this out in constituencies such as Midlothian on a test and learn basis, but I don’t see much learning happening.

The issue of the Universal Credit helpline having a charge of 55p per minute was raised in Parliament this month, and I reminded constituents that they are able to use my office to phone the helpline for free.

The simple act of offering my phone to be used for free is politics on the front line, and I won’t turn anyone away who needs help and support. The Governments’ refusal to scrap this charge shows their lack of understanding of the everyday lives and hardships of those who are struggling on their new benefit service.

Speaking of politics on the front line, we have now seen the scale of cuts which could affect Council services in Midlothian. Our Council is having to plan for a projected £44.792m cut in its budget from the Scottish Government between now and 2021/22.

Officers have suggested that the Council will need to cut over £13m this year alone, and Councillors have agreed to consult with the people of Midlothian about what their priorities are. Be sure to have your say on the Council’s website.

We will have a UK and a Scottish budget in the coming months – we MUST see our two Governments put an end to this damaging austerity.