More than half of Scottish families receiving Universal Credit have at least one deduction from their monthly income to cover debts to public bodies, a study has found.
Research by the children’s charity Aberlour found 55% of low-income families had at least one deduction to cover debts.
Meanwhile, 27% had multiple deductions by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The debts include paying back Universal Credit advance payments, as well as “third party deductions” on behalf of local authorities and other public bodies for rent arrears, service charges and council tax payments.
Professor Morag Treanor of Heriot-Watt University carried out the research, which was based on freedom of information requests to the DWP.
She said: “This new report demonstrates that over half of families with children in Scotland are trapped in a damaging cycle of poverty because of Universal Credit deductions.
“With families seeing their monthly income reduced on average by £80 to cover those debts, while fuel and food prices rapidly increase is, in real times, significantly worsening their financial circumstances.
“These findings are a crucial reminder that the Government needs to act now to support low-income families as we head into winter.”
Aberlour’s chief executive SallyAnn Kelly said: “Aberlour campaigned for the introduction and increase of the Scottish Child Payment as a vital boost to the incomes of families in Scotland who have the least.
“Our research shows that tens of thousands of families eligible for the payment are not feeling the full benefit of that financial help, as the majority of the increase in income it provides is being cancelled out by deductions to cover the costs of debt to public bodies.
“Quite simply, Scotland’s poorest families are receiving help with one hand that is being taken away by the other.”
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