The SNP have renewed calls for the UK Government to strengthen welfare protections after new figures revealed almost a million people have applied for Universal Credit in the past fortnight.

Neil Gray MP said the current system of Universal Credit was not generous or flexible enough to properly support the millions of people that need help amid the coronavirus crisis.

READ MORE: Lockdown sees 950,000 apply for Universal Credit

The SNP shadow work and pensions secretary repeated calls on the UK Government to use the tax and welfare system to boost support, and ensure no one is left behind – by introducing a guaranteed minimum income for everyone.

The SNP has also called on the UK Government to make Universal Credit more responsive to people's needs – including by introducing an immediate upfront payment, extending the backdating of benefits and relaxing the criteria, removing the capital tariff reduction for those with savings, and removing the shared accommodation rate from the Local Housing Allowance.

Neil Gray MP said: "The staggering news that almost a million people have applied for Universal Credit in the past fortnight alone highlights the huge scale of the crisis we face – and proves beyond doubt that more support is needed.

"The UK Government must listen to those of us who have been calling for welfare protections to be significantly strengthened to help people through this unprecedented emergency.

"The SNP have repeatedly called for the Chancellor to introduce a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. That is the simplest way to ensure everyone has the support they need. It is clear that the current jobs retention and self-employed schemes are failing to cover everyone.

"The Universal Credit system must be urgently improved so it is more generous, flexible, and responsive to people's needs – including by tackling the delays and introducing an immediate upfront payment. People shouldn't have to wait weeks to get the help they need right now."

Gray added: "The UK Government must also look again at the range of practical measures that have been suggested to improve the system – including extending the backdating of benefits, removing the reductions for those with savings, ending the shared accommodation rate, and reducing the long wait to get help with mortgage interest.

“A huge proportion of the population is worried about how they are going to make ends meet.

"Every MP will have constituents who are desperate for greater help. The UK Government rightly brought in the rules to keep people socially isolated but they must now match that by protecting their incomes. With Universal Credit they have not done nearly enough.

"The flaws in the UK's welfare system are not new - but the scale of this crisis means they must now be urgently addressed so millions are not left struggling to get by."

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