Many new Universal Credit claimants during the pandemic are younger homeowners who will suffer an income shock from moving on to the benefit, MSPs have heard.
Holyrood’s Social Security Committee has been taking evidence on changes needed in the benefits system.
On Thursday, the committee heard from several groups involved in tackling poverty.
Mhoraig Green, of Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), said: “One thing that we’re seeing in our data throughout the pandemic is the breadth and depth of the financial impact this is having across society.
“We’re seeing new types of people coming to CAS seeking advice on benefits.
“What we know during the pandemic is our clients are more likely to be younger, are more likely to be owner-occupiers and are more likely to be in employment.”
About a quarter of people who have gone to CAS seeking help with Universal Credit are homeowners, she said, which means they cannot access extra support for housing costs quickly.
Use of food banks during the pandemic showed the current levels of social security were insufficient, Ms Green said.
She added: “As we see that new demographic, homeowners and people who have perhaps had higher incomes going on to Universal Credit they’re going to experience a real income shock because of the difference between their current income and the levels of Universal Credit.”
Ms Green said work is ongoing with other charities to discuss a “minimum income guarantee” – an income level no-one would be allowed to fall below through either work or benefits.
The committee also heard calls for the £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments to be continued.
The increase is due to end in April next year.
Katie Schmuecker, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “By taking it away at this point we’re going to see families losing £1,000 a year.
“That is something that is simply going to make an already incredibly challenging winter more difficult for those families.
“It would be the wrong thing to do.”
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