The DWP might call it a test and learn environment but this is affecting vulnerable people and putting a huge strain on council staff.ALISON JOHNSTONE MSP
Alison Johnstone MSP, Social Security spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, has challenged bosses from the UK Department of Work and Pensions after they admitted that the roll out of Universal Credit in East Lothian is a "test and learn environment."
At Holyrood's Social Security committee yesterday (15 Dec), Ms Johnstone, who is an MSP for Lothian region, highlighted a report going before East Lothian Council on Tuesday (20 Dec) which shows that the change to Universal Credit from Housing Benefit has caused a 20 per cent increase in council tenant rent arrears in just three months.
The report also reveals that the changes have seen "many repeated experiences of errors, missing documentation and Data Protection breaches on the part of the DWP", along with lack of knowledge and training among DWP staff, reluctance of landlords to rent property to recipients and an increased risk of homelessness.
Alison raised what she called "very serious concerns" with Neil Couling, Universal Credit Director General at the Department for Work and Pensions. Mr Couling admitted there had been problems and spoke of deploying extra staff to "fight our way out of a vicious circle".
Alison Johnstone, Social Security spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said:
"The DWP roll out of Universal Credit in East Lothian is clearly causing serious problems. The DWP might call it a test and learn environment but this is affecting vulnerable people and putting a huge strain on council staff.
"We need to see some compassion from the UK Government who are driving these ill-considered changes. The DWP say they are listening to East Lothian Council, where staff are clearly stretched. The DWP must improve their systems as there is very little confidence left in Universal Credit."
Paper for East Lothian Council meeting on 20 December, outlining problems with roll out of Universal Credit