A WARNING has been sounded that Scotland faces a “crisis” of in-work poverty if the £20-per-week increase to Universal Credit is not made permanent.

More than one-third of new Universal Credit claimants seeking advice from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) are in work, according to new figures.

Since April, the network has issued more than 6500 pieces of advice about benefits to people who are in part-time or full-time work, and they make up 34% of clients.

It is calling on the UK Government to continue with the £20 weekly increase, which was introduced by the Chancellor in March 2020 and is due to end this coming March.

CAS said it also saw more homeowners than usual seek help from the CAB network with Universal Credit, in addition to those who rent privately. Mortgage payers are not entitled to any support with housing costs until they have been claiming Universal Credit for 39 weeks.

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CAS social justice spokeswoman Nina Ballantyne said: “Universal Credit is a key element of our social security system, and the decision last spring to increase the payment by £20 a week has been a lifeline for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s now essential it’s retained permanently, otherwise there is a real risk more people on Universal Credit will face an income crisis, unable to meet their living costs, while our shell shocked economy is still dealing with the fallout of the pandemic.

“Universal Credit should be a safety net for people on low incomes who are in and out of work, with one in three people who come to the Citizens Advice network for help with the benefit currently in work.

“Cutting the increase will remove around £1000 per year and contribute to a crisis of in-work poverty when we need to build back better. We already face unacceptable levels of poverty in our society, this cut could see even more people swept under the tide.

“Keeping the £20 a week increase, boosting pay and delivering more secure work for people will grow the economy in a fair way.

“There is still time for the Government to keep this lifeline permanently, and give people the security of knowing that their incomes will be protected beyond March 2021.”

A UK Government spokesman added: “We have always been committed to supporting the lowest-paid families.

“That’s why we have provided billions of welfare support this year, including the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help children and families stay warm and well-fed during the coldest months, and spent hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs across the UK.”

The SNP have repeatedly called for the increase to be made permanent.