A ‘MOUNTAIN’ of evidence shows that Universal Credit (UC) is pushing people into poverty, according to Scotland’s Social Security Secretary.

Shirley-Anne Somerville was speaking after new figures suggested that around £68 million in advance payments have been received by people in Scotland waiting for UC to be delivered.

An estimated 183,120 total advances were made since the service began to roll out in local authority areas in 2016 and April 30 this year – at an average value of £372, according to information obtained under a freedom of information (FOI) request made by Scottish Labour to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

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UC recipients can ask for an advance payment if they are in financial hardship while waiting for their first payment – as no money is paid until five weeks after they make their first claim.

In Glasgow, about £6m was made in advance payments, with a total of around 16,640 total advances and an average value of £374. During the same period, there were 5230 advances in Edinburgh, with total expenditure of around £1.9m.

Across Scotland, 197,289 people were on UC in June 2019.

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Somerville said: “There is a mountain of evidence that Universal Credit is pushing people into hardship, rent arrears and poverty. UK Government welfare cuts have increased the risk of deprivation for low-income families across Scotland and we are set to invest more than £125m in 2019-20 to mitigate the damaging impact of welfare cuts for people and protect people on low incomes.

“We continue to call on the UK Government to fix the fundamental flaws within Universal Credit.

“Since the start of 2019, each month an average of 9000 people in Scotland have been transferred by the DWP to a broken Universal Credit system that is not fit for purpose – and this must stop.

“We’ve used the very limited powers we have over Universal Credit to give people more choice – to pay housing costs directly to landlords and to change the frequency of payments.

“We are also working towards getting agreement from the DWP to introduce split payments to give everyone access to an independent income.”

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Sarwar, Scottish Labour MSP for Glasgow, said the system was failing to help those who need it.

“Far too many people are being pushed into hardship – and the system is clearly set up in a way that means it is not helping those who need it,” he said.

“Those on Universal Credit shouldn’t be forced into claiming emergency loans simply so they can pay their rent, heat their home or provide food for their family.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Universal Credit is a force for good and more than two million people are now receiving support.”