The challenges facing people applying for Universal Credit were discussed at a public meeting hosted by Aberdeenshire West Constituency Labour Party in Inverurie on Saturday (February 16).
The meeting was chaired by Labour Councillor Alison Evison and addressed by Lewis Macdonald MSP and Sarah Flavell of Gordon Rural Action.
Ms Flavell outlined the range of support available for people trying to claim Universal Credit across Aberdeenshire and gave guidance about how to overcome particular problems.
Councillor Evison said: “It is clear that people living in rural areas, people without access to affordable internet, some non-UK European citizens and women are not being treated well by the current roll-out of Universal Credit.
“Far more resource needs to be put into the system by the UK Government if it is going to continue.
“There is a lot of pressure on our local advice agencies who are trying to support people.”
Sarah Flavell said: “This meeting was organised to highlight to residents across Aberdeenshire where help is available to them.
“It was also an opportunity to update service providers on recent developments, as the system of Universal Credit is regularly changing.”
Cllr Evison added: “I am gathering a list of issues affecting people locally, and forwarding them to the Department of Work and Pensions for consideration and response.
“If this is the system we have, we have to make it work and enable claimants to feel they are being treated with dignity and respect.”
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald commented: “I was delighted to support this very worthwhile public meeting, to address the issues around Universal Credit and to hear the concerns of people supporting claimants in rural Aberdeenshire.
“The Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee published a report earlier this month, highlighting the need to protect low-paid working people and families from unintended consequences of the way Universal Credit has been rolled out, and calling for changes in future.
“That message received a warm welcome in Inverurie,” she added.