DWP deducting on average £80 a month from Scottish families on UC

Exclusive: Report finds struggling families are having on average 10% of monthly income deducted to cover debt

Low-income families in Scotland are having on average 10% of their monthly income deducted by the Department for Work and Pensions to cover debts such as universal credit advances or school meals payments, according to research.

The report for Aberlour Children’s Charity, seen by the Guardian, found that families in receipt of universal credit (UC) are having their monthly income reduced on average by £80 to cover spiralling debt.

Reasons for deductions include universal credit advances, budgeting advances, tax credit overpayment, housing benefits overpayment owed to the DWP, as well as “third-party deductions” on behalf of local authorities and others for rent arrears, service charges and council tax payments.

Morag Treanor, a professor at the institute for social policy, housing and equalities research at Heriot-Watt University, collected freedom of information data on nearly 80,000 families across Scotland for the report, which found that more than a quarter of low-income families in receipt of UC had multiple deductions made by the DWP from their monthly income and more than half had at least one deduction.

Scotland has a higher proportion of families subject to multiple deductions from their monthly income by the DWP to cover debts to public bodies compared with England and Wales.

In June, another report by Treanor for Aberlour revealed the £1m scale of school meal debt and detailed an alarming rise in hidden hunger among pupils.

Treanor said: “Nearly six months later, seven councils have written this debt off, providing much relief to some of Scotland’s families. However, the majority have not. This new report demonstrates that over half of families with children in Scotland are trapped in a damaging cycle of poverty because of universal credit deductions.

“These findings are a crucial reminder that the UK government needs to act now to support low-income families we head into winter.”

Aberlour’s chief executive, SallyAnn Kelly, pointed out that while the charity had campaigned for the the Scottish child payment – boosted recently by the Scottish government – the research shows that tens of thousands of families eligible for it were not feeling the full benefit as it was being cancelled out by the debt deductions.

“Quite simply, Scotland’s poorest families are receiving help with one hand that is being taken away by the other.”

Aberlour is calling for a moratorium on all deductions from universal credit claimants, and those on legacy benefits, for a minimum of six months, as well as urging the Scottish government and local authorities to work together to write off all existing school meal debt and introduce legislation to bring public debt recovery in line with private sector regulation.

The DWP said: “The government recognises the importance of supporting the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt. We seek to balance recovery of debt against not causing hardship for claimants and their families.”

Contributor

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Scottish housing benefit reforms to offer tenants greater flexibility
Changes to universal credit system mark first use of welfare powers introduced after independence referendum in 2014

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

13, Jan, 2017 @4:52 PM

Article image
Failure to raise benefits would be ‘hostile and harmful’, Truss is warned
PM reneging on Conservative promise to increase benefits in line with inflation ‘morally indefensible’, say experts

Patrick Butler Social policy editor

30, Sep, 2022 @4:28 PM

Article image
Universal credit: tens of thousands of families face benefits cap
Struggling households in Great Britain risk losing hundreds of pounds a month in payments

Patrick Butler Social policy editor

26, Nov, 2020 @12:35 PM

Article image
'Two-child policy' cuts benefits of more than 70,000 families
Campaigners warn poverty will rise as low-income families lose financial support

Patrick Butler Social policy editor

28, Jun, 2018 @2:24 PM

Article image
Glasgow East: 'What is the point in voting? Nothing will change'
In the run-up to the general election, six Guardian reporters are writing from constituencies across the UK to find out what matters in your area. In our fourth visit to Glasgow East, Lisa O’Carroll speaks to residents of Easterhouse, one of Scotland’s most deprived areas

Lisa O'Carroll

05, Jun, 2017 @3:04 PM

Article image
Key points from UN envoy's report on poverty in Britain
Summary of Philip Alston’s report which says austerity has inflicted misery on UK citizens

Patrick Butler and Robert Booth

16, Nov, 2018 @4:50 PM

Article image
Scottish government urged to use devolved powers on child poverty
Calls for commitment to topping up child element of universal credit to meet 2030 targets

Libby Brooks

05, Mar, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
Challenges Theresa May inherits from Cameron: from Brexit to benefits
On her first day in No 10, the new PM’s in-tray will be packed with problems: on the EU, Trident, schools, the NHS and more

12, Jul, 2016 @2:58 PM

Article image
One in five families in Liz Truss’s seat would lose out under real-term benefit cuts
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows impact of increasing benefits in line with earnings, not inflation

Patrick Butler Social policy editor

11, Oct, 2022 @11:01 PM

Article image
Tax cuts funded on backs of poor ‘morally indefensible’, say campaigners
Government could seek to reduce welfare benefits spending in wake of recent mini-budget

Patrick Butler Social policy editor

29, Sep, 2022 @4:55 PM