UNIVERSAL Credit and benefit cuts are causing havoc in Glasgow where it has been rolled out.

Govan Jobcentre was the first in the city to see Universal Credit full service, in September and community groups are seeing the damage being inflicted.

Foodbanks are feeding more people and support services are doing the job of the welfare state to prevent destitution.

In the foodbank at Hillington Park Church, the tables are full of local people coming in for help and advice.

Tea, coffee toast and biscuits are being served by volunteers.

Piles of clothes donated from the community are being sorted ready to be given to people in need.

Mark and his partner Margaret have come in and are speaking to MP Chris Stephens.

Mark has been signed off sick from his job as a cleaner since June but hasn’t had a penny in benefits.

He said he applied for PIP eight weeks ago but is waiting on a decision and was told he hasn’t paid enough contributions to qualify for Jobseekers allowance or ESA despite always having worked until this year.

He added: “We are trying to live off Margaret’s income but we are getting deeper into debt. 

“We owe £1400 on council tax with two weeks to pay. We can’t find that in two weeks.

“I’ve been told if I get PIP it won’t be backdated until June when I was signed off only in September, so the debt will still be there.”

Claire McCunnie is the Development worker for Glasgow South West Foodbank.

She said they have just opened a fifth centre, in Pollok, due to the growing demand for help.
Over the four centres they are now seeing more than 250 people every week.
Last Monday the number was 101 and on Friday it was 80.

She said: “It has gone up since Universal Credit came in. There are  lot of single mothers coming. They are holding out until the fourth week with no benefit and then they seek help.

“The single men seem more likely to come for help sooner.

“We get mums who have not eaten for four days, going hungry so they can feed their children.”

Gerry Keogh, of Unlock Employment, said people are being sent to him who are unable to find work.

He said: “People are struggling to feed themselves never mind look for work.

“What I have noticed over the last three months is the amount of clients who are panicking about finding work because they fear sanctions.”

Gerry said they are not getting the same level of support from the Jobcentre that they used to get.

He added: “The Jobcentre is sending them to me to do CVs with them and help find vacancies.

“The Jobcentre is using facilities like our as part of the welfare system but not paying for the service.”

Mr Stephens, Glasgow South West SNP MP, said he has an increased caseload with Universal Credit and PIP.

Mr Stephens said: “There is a bubble at Westminster with people who say there is no poverty in the country.

“If it wasn’t for the foodbanks, Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Unlock Employment giving crisis help it would be a lot worse.”

Roza Salih is Mr Stephen’s office manager and sees the problems on a daily basis.

She said people are beginning to be switched to Universal Credit from their original benefits and being left with less money.

She said: “People are being paid less than what they were on, just by being switched over, especially people who had disability payments. 

“People are also not being paid the correct amount and many are owed money.

“There is a definite rise in people coming to the foodbanks.

“The welfare state was designed to ensure people were not in poverty, now it is the cause of poverty.”

At Westminster the Government ministers and Tory MPs continue to  insist Universal Credit is working and is getting people into work.

However, Ms Salih added: “More people are going to foodbanks, Citizens’ Advice and their local MP. 

“If the system worked properly this wouldn’t be happening.”