Jamie Stone hits out over 'unacceptable' delays for Universal Credit claimants
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Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone has hit out at "unacceptable" delays in payments for people who receive Universal Credit.
He is calling for a return to "timely face-to-face meetings" between staff from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Universal Credit claimants.
Mr Stone challenged the work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey in the House of Commons over the issue.
He said additional meetings ordered by the DWP since the start of the pandemic were causing delays to people in the north of Scotland seeking their benefits.
Mr Stone called the situation unacceptable, with claimants having to take part in multiple meetings as opposed to a single face-to-face meeting to establish their entitlement as was the case pre-Covid. This had led to delays in constituents receiving their payments.
He also asked Ms Coffey to ensure that claimants in areas such as Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross were not disadvantaged as a result of living in a rural location.
Mr Stone said his remarks were "in no way a criticism of the very hard work of the DWP staff in the north of Scotland".
He said: "Can I ask the secretary of state to look at two things – firstly to ensure that we go back to the timely face-to-face meetings and secondly, if there is a geographic element to this, because I represent such a huge constituency, could that be looked into as well with a view to sorting it all out?"
Ms Coffey told him: "The honourable gentleman makes a valid point about the rural elements and that is taken into account in the prioritisation of people that we may wish to see on face-to-face interventions. We do treat every claimant as an individual in how we are trying to help them at this stage, none more so than in his part of Scotland."