FOR Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security, watching the roll-out of Universal Credit ­­– completed in Glasgow’s Shettleston, Drumchapel and Castlemilk last week ­– has been deeply frustrating.

It’s Friday and she is in her Dunfermline constituency, where she often sees the reality of its impact.

“We usually see folk [who are struggling with Universal Credit] and there have been some tough cases,” she says. “It really brings it home.

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“The last gentleman I dealt with was quite elderly and living alone. He didn’t use a computer or have an email address or have a mobile phone. Yet the DWP tell him he has to apply online and verify by mobile. He had no chance of being able to do this without support.”

She has referred him to a local charity for support but she admits it’s “really frustrating”.

“The DWP don’t provide a system that works for people,” she adds. “He is entitled to the money. It’s inhumane, that’s the only way I could describe it.

“We have now seen it fully roll-out across Scotland and anyone making a claim now will receive no money until January due to a least five weeks wait, and there’s no guarantee it won’t be longer. It’s an atrocious way to treat people at any time of the year.

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She has also written to newly appointed Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and received no reply – neither did she receive a reply from her predecessor Esther McVey – but a meeting is scheduled.

While charities and faith leaders claim the Scottish Government is not moving fast enough to roll out its promised additional supplement, she insists it is doing much to mitigate Westminster policies.

Yesterday it was revealed £56.9 million was paid out by Scottish local authorities in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), introduced in response to the Tory bedroom tax policy.  

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She claims that petty charges – £2.50 is levied every time the Scottish Government applies to pay out Universal Credit fortnightly, rather than monthly as is DWP policy – are holding Scotland back.

“We need to deliver it in a way that’s not handing a big bulk of that over to those who are driving an inhumane system,” she says.

“The challenging for tackling poverty is we are effectively doing it with one hand tied behind our back. It’s frustrating to be relying on a system in Westminster that is causing so much pain.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government now has significant welfare powers, including to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”