Universal Credit should be “automatically split” so payments go directly to women.

That’s the message from Labour MP for Midlothian Danielle Rowley following a Universal Credit summit in her constituency attended by charities community groups and public sector organisations.

Research commissioned by the MP from the House of Commons Library research shows that the increase of women on Universal Credit in Midlothian is much faster than men.

The number and proportion of women claiming the benefit has risen steeply in Midlothian in the last year, from around 180 in March 2017 to around 1,660 in March 2018.

The number of men, in comparison, has risen less sharply, from around 440 in March 2017 to 1,480 in March 2018.

Split payments are backed by women’s organisations as a way of helping women who have experienced domestic abuse.

Danielle Rowley pledged to take the case to the Tory  employment minister to fix the problem across the whole of the UK – but said Scotland could follow a different path this coming Wednesday, where Holyrood will vote on the final stage of the Social Security Bill.

Labour has an amendment on automatically splitting payments. The issue was previously raised by Richard Leonard at First Minister’s Questions in March.

Danielle Rowley said: “Universal Credit payments should be automatically split and so money is paid directly to the woman. I want to see this across the whole UK but we can deliver that change in Scotland this coming Wednesday – if the other parties vote for Labour’s amendment.

“The rollout of Universal Credit has had a huge impact on many people in Midlothian and across Scotland.

The Government isn’t listening to the voices of people suffering under this service, or the voices and evidence from organisations who are supporting people. So I wanted to bring together communities in Midlothian with experience of the impact of UC to create a very clear and comprehensive picture of the human impact of this.  

“It is no coincidence that so many of the organisations dealing with the fallout of Universal Credit reported so many similar problems and casework at our discussion. It is overwhelmingly clear that lessons are not being learned from early rollout areas including Midlothian.

“I hope Alok Sharma, the Employment Minister, will heed these warnings and our suggested solutions, which I will present to him at our upcoming meeting. It is not too late for the Government to admit it got this one wrong.”

“But it is in the hands of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday whether it is prepared to overturn the ruling on split payments.