The cut to Universal Credit is “sad and disappointing”, Shona Robison, Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary, has said.
The scrapping of the £20 uplift, which was put in place as a result of the pandemic, came into effect on Wednesday, as charities warned as many as 22,000 children would be pushed into poverty.
But the UK Government has pledged £500 million to help get people into work – despite the £6 billion saving from scrapping the uplift.
Ms Robison said: “This is a sad and disappointing day. It is a cruel irony the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit is being withdrawn in a week in which we are being asked to Challenge Poverty.
“The move has already been condemned by the First Ministers and Children’s Commissioners of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, countless charities and campaigners, the United Nations’ poverty envoy and even former Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions.”
The change coincides with the cost of living, including heating bills, set to rise over the winter, along with the end of the furlough scheme, which supported millions across the UK during the pandemic, and the hike in national insurance contributions.
“People are bracing themselves against soaring food and fuel costs, the end of the furlough scheme, and imminent increases in national insurance contributions,” Ms Robison added.
“Millions of people, and their communities, will be negatively impacted by the withdrawal of these lifeline payments.
“The Scottish Government have set out a range of ambitious actions to tackle child poverty, but this undermines so much of what we want to achieve.”
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) described the move as “shameful”.
“The UK Government really must think again and reverse this cut before the damage mounts irreparably. In the meantime, it’s vital that families are supported to claim the other financial benefits they are entitled to,” said Kirsty McKechnie, a project manager at CPAG.
“We know that too many are missing out on council tax reduction and on disability benefits, for example, while others are unaware that their children may be entitled to free school meals and school clothing grants.”
Save the Children in Scotland estimates more than 360,000 families will be impacted by the change, and the head of the organisation has called for the “lifeline” £20 per week payment to be reinstated.
She said: “People we work with tell us they’ve been relying on this £20 lifeline to buy essentials like food and clothing for themselves and their children.
“Without it, tens of thousands more children are facing a cold and hungry winter. And we know the impacts of childhood poverty can last a lifetime.
“It’s astonishing that UK Government ministers have chosen to inflict the most significant social security cut in memory at the same time that families are grappling with a cost-of-living crisis. Inflation, increases in energy prices, fuel shortages and tax hikes are all taking their toll on family finances.
“For many, this will be a significant catastrophe of falling income and rising costs. The UK Government has a duty to protect families from hardship and not add to it.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary.
“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”
Citizens Advice Scotland have also mobilised, urging people impacted by the cut to seek advice on how they can manage financially.