Today Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP Colin Beattie expressed his shock that, as of January 2018, Midlothian Council’s Welfare Rights Team will no longer offer representation at Social Security Appeals five days a week.
A letter dated 7th November 2017 from the Council’s Welfare Rights Team to the HM Courts & Tribunals Service was passed to Mr Beattie outlining the changes. From 2018 the Welfare Rights Team will only be able to represent clients on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons.
The letter states that the imposition of these changes is as a result of the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) Full service in March 2017. The letter also states that a recommendation from a review following local authority budget cuts mean the Welfare Rights Team is now prioritising support to housing staff and tenants to alleviate the growing rent arrears in the area.
Mr Beattie said:
‘I am deeply concerned by the consequences that will arise from this change.
‘If there’s one thing we can take from the Universal Credit debacle, it’s that claimants require more support than ever given the outrageous payment delays and deeply unfair sanctions that have taken place.
‘I’ve no doubt that the Welfare Service Team have not taken this decision lightly.
‘I call on Danielle Rowley MP to stand up for her constituents at a time when they need her support more than ever. I welcome her campaign to pause the roll out of Universal Credit; now she must ask Westminster and her Labour colleagues at Midlothian Council to ensure that the appropriate provision is there for those who need it.’
Local councillors added their voice to Mr Beattie’s with SNP Cllr Kelly Parry saying:
‘The impact of austerity is two fold four on our council with the effects of the Westminster cuts to the Scottish budget now trickling down to local authorities - combined with the impacts from welfare reform.’
‘The UK Government must take into account how policy changes made in Westminster can affect our frontline services, we are being squeezed from both sides and it is unsustainable.’
‘The council has forecast it will divert millions in attempts to deal with the impacts of Universal Credit at a time when it has also issued calls for cuts - that money could be better spent on front line services.’