At the December meeting of Stirling Council, councillors will hear about the devastating impact that the introduction of Universal Credit is having on our most vulnerable citizens. A report, first presented to the Council’s Community Planning and Regeneration Committee in November, was sent to full council because the impact was considered so vast and so great, that it cut across all council services.
Speaking at the November meeting, the Labour Convenor of the Community Planning and Regeneration Committee, Councillor Chris Kane, said,
“It is difficult to overstate how much of a negative impact the introduction of Universal Credit has had in Stirling.
I am appalled that a policy, peddled as liberating and progressive, is being implemented in such a cavalier and cruel fashion. Up and down the country, council after council are telling the same story: Universal Credit is fundamentally flawed and is devastating to the most vulnerable people in our communities.
We have heard stories today so astonishing they are almost inconceivable; women fleeing domestic violence being told that before they can begin the long grotesque wait for a new application to be processed, they must first spend weeks disentangling an existing joint claim, and must do it with their abusive partner at their side.
Stirling Council, and our third sector partners, have been preparing for this vicious storm for over a year. It arrived on 28th June and it is showing no signs of abating; in fact, it is getting worse. The question we must ask is not ‘are our services coping?’, but rather, ‘when will they break?’
So, what must we do? We must remit this report for consideration by the full council to ensure we have a coordinated response across all of our services and committees. We must share our evidence of the stark reality of this unfolding disaster with the UK Government, in the vein hope that one more voice pleading for a reassessment might be enough to make a difference. We must ask the Scottish Government to identify money to assist us; for while Local Authorities have the liabilities of Universal Credit it is Holyrood who have the power to provide mitigation resources.
Where this committee can influence change immediately is through internet access, particularly in our libraries. We must instruct our officers to establish what additional measures are required to ensure our citizens, many of whom do not have a computer or even an email address, get the support they need for a Universal Credit application process that is entirely online.
Finally, we must thank Stirling Council staff and our Third Sector partners such as Home Start, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Start-Up Stirling and the Stirling Carers Centre for their professionalism and compassion. It is in stark contrast to the bureaucratic barbarism of the universal credit roll out.