Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil met with representatives from Western Isles Citizens Advice Service (WICAS) this week to discuss the impact of the cut to Universal Credit uplift on island claimants.

Mr MacNeil has already written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Riki Sunak MP urging the UK Government to retain the £20 uplift which has been a lifeline to more than 1,500 people in the Western Isles who have been claiming Universal Credit throughout the pandemic.

He also supported an Opposition Day Parliamentary Motion to cancel the cut, which was backed, but will not, unfortunately, prevent the UK Government from going ahead with the cut.

He said: “This week’s meeting with representatives from WICAS was extremely helpful in identifying the real daily impact that this cut will have on people who are already struggling financially. It is not right that so many people are kept on the edge of financial stress due to warped Tory money ideology.  The physical, mental and social well-being of too many people is impacted by the UK Government’s policy of keeping people in poverty.

“The whole WICAS team work extremely hard to provide key support and advice to those most in need.  They have also helped to bring in an incredible total of at least £870,000 to the Western Isles economy in the last year, a figure with a likely high multiplier effect.

“The team tell me that money is the main issue being raised with them by members of the community and the UK Government is about to make this worse.

“I will continue to press the UK Government to retain the uplift, although it seems unlikely they will back down.”

Hector Macleod, Western Isles Citizens Advice Service (WICAS) said: “WICAS are currently dealing with a sharp increase in contact from individuals with debt related issues, and are braced for a further wave of calls from clients when the £20 uplift of Universal Credit is withdrawn at the end of September.

“By the very nature of the uplift and subsequent withdrawal of this additional benefit, it will be the poorest in our society who will be affected most. WICAS call on all elected representatives to lobby the Government, and ask them to reconsider the removal of this crucial support and consider the impact on those most affected.”

In August 2021 there were 1,530 people on Universal Credit in Na h-Eileanan an Iar. 9.6% of the working-age population of the constituency (those aged 16-65).

In July, 632 people on Universal Credit in Na h-Eileanan an Iar were in employment, 41.3% of the total number on UC in the constituency.

The SNP have repeatedly called on the UK to make the uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits permanent and to extend an equivalent uplift to people claiming legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance.

The UK Government confirmed the uplift to Universal Credit will be withdrawn at the end of September, just as the furlough scheme ends, and the OBR expects UK unemployment levels to peak.

Angus MacNeil MP had a virtual meeting with WICAS this week.