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Universal Credit recipients in Scotland exercise payment choices

Almost half of UC recipients in Scotland choose to exercise new payment choices.

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Nearly one in two people in receipt of Universal Credit (UC) in Scotland has chosen for their payments to be paid in a different way when offered the choice by the Scottish Government.

While Universal Credit is reserved to the UK Government, Scottish Ministers have used their limited powers in this area to enable people to receive payments more frequently and/or for the housing cost in their payment to be made directly to their landlords, which should help reduce rent arrears and evictions.

Newly published figures show that, by the end of August this year, 66,700 people had been offered one or both Scottish choices since October 2017, with around 32,000 – almost 50% - taking up the offer.

Speaking on a visit to Prospect Community Housing in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“We have done what we can with our limited powers, providing people who receive Universal Credit with choices on the frequency of their payments and paying housing costs directly to their landlord. We have also committed to introduce split payments of the Universal Credit award in Scotland to ensure everyone has access to an independent income.

“The high take-up rate of our Universal Credit Scottish choices is evidence people want more flexibility and adaptability in how they receive the support that they are entitled to.”

UC Scottish choices give recipients of UC in Scotland a choice to have their UC award paid either monthly or twice monthly, and have the housing costs in their award of UC paid direct to their landlord. A person can make just one or both choices, depending on their circumstances. It was introduced on 4 October 2017 for people accessing UC for new claims in full service areas. On 31 January 2018 it was extended to everyone receiving UC in full service areas.

During her visit, Ms Somerville also heard from Prospect tenants who highlighted the difficulties UC causes and the impossible choices it can force claimants to make. The tenants were keen to stress the importance of Prospect's Welfare Benefits Service and impressed on the Cabinet Secretary how valued the service of Prospect’s Welfare Rights Officer Fiona McLuckie and other local advisors like her is to claimants.

Pictured: Prospect tenant David Laird shows Shirley-Anne Somerville his UC online journal; Prospect tenants share their experience.