Published: 17/10/2017 13:00 - Updated: 17/10/2017 09:04

Prime Minister invited to attend Inverness benefit 'crisis' summit

Written byEmma Crichton

 

Drew Hendry
MP Drew Hendry has invited the PM to a summit meeting on universal credit problems.

THE Prime Minister has been invited to Inverness to hear the "utterly horrifying stories" of people struggling to survive on universal credit.

The controversial new benefit system has been blamed for plunging people into debt, but the UK Government is continuing to roll it out.

Now Theresa May has been asked to attend Inverness crisis talks to hear first-hand experiences of those suffering the most.

Three years ago Inverness and the surrounding area was one of the pilot areas to trial universal credit, which replaces a range of benefits with a single payment.

Since then a number of problems have been uncovered including a minimum six-week benefit freeze for new claimants or even those reporting a change of address.

Claimants have also had difficulties with online forms and a helpline charging a premium rate.

Now Inverness MP Drew Hendry has arranged a summit in Merkinch and has asked Mrs May to attend.

"I want the prime minister to hear from my constituents, local authority staff and the third sector and to work with us to stop this awful mess," he said. "On a daily basis now I hear utterly horrifying stories of financial hardships, evictions, and personal humiliation.

"The roll out of universal credit has been nothing short of a disaster and for those it has failed it has been a personal catastrophe.

"I have consistently urged the UK Government to act on the mountain of evidence, including from their own agencies and delivery partners, on the harm this shambles is causing.

"It isn’t working. It never has. The Tories know it and they must halt it now.

"Theresa May or any of her ministers should really come and hear the testimony from those suffering because of universal credit."

The summit will be held at Merkinch Community Centre on November 3.

The prime minister has not yet responded to Mr Hendry and nobody from the UK Government was available for comment but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) previously said universal credit claimants are "comfortably managing".

A spokesman said: "The reasons for rent arrears are complex and to link it to welfare reform is misleading.

"Our research shows that the majority of universal credit claimants are comfortably managing their budgets and that after four months the proportion of claimants we surveyed, who were in arrears at the start of their claim, fell by a third."

Last week Mr Hendry tabled a motion at the SNP conference, called on party colleagues to support his fight against the roll out of universal credit.

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