Universal Credit and Debt — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:29 pm on 5th June 2019.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 3:29 pm, 5th June 2019

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Henry.

This debate is in stark contrast to the advertisements for universal credit that we see in certain newspapers. Those adverts should not include a DWP or universal credit logo; those advertisements would not look out of place in an episode of “Jackanory”. As a constituent pointed out to me yesterday, one advertisement mentioned the advance payment, but did not say it was a loan. Does that advance come in wrapping paper and ribbon? The advance payment is a loan, and the Government cannot keep denying that or saying that it is something else. That loan is adding to universal credit debt, as is the five-week wait. As has been said, many of those leaving work were paid weekly or fortnightly, and they then have to wait five weeks. People are refusing the advance because it is a loan.

Some 60% of those with debt reductions are not getting the help they need from creditors, so they are borrowing more money. Those with deductions on universal credit are becoming more reliant on foodbanks, and Scottish Welfare Fund crisis grants are increasing all the time as a result. Some 40% of those with deductions are also behind with other household bills, such as food or fuel—it is a circle. My great fear is that the Government are not following Cabinet Office guidelines on debt collection, and that this is become a loan shark’s charter. This is a serious issue, and I hope that the Minister and his Department will get a grip on how they deal with debts and universal credit.