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Half of Scots households on Universal Credit face 'poverty tax' deductions in payments

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Half of households in Scotland relying on Universal Credit have suffered deductions in their benefit payments, figures show.Almost half of the £11.3 million taken in one month this year was to repay upfront loans that claimants are forced to take out from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) while waiting five weeks for their first UC payment.Chris Stephens, the SNP MP who uncovered the data, branded it a "poverty tax" that saw 188,000 households across Scotland lose £60 on average.He wants the DWP to issue grants to new claimants instead of them being forced to take out upfront loans.Cash can also be deducted from claimants if they receive overpayment in error.Stephens discovered the scale of the deductions system after submitting a written question to the UK Government.The MP for Glasgow South West said: "My constituents are among the hardest hit by this cruel poverty tax being imposed on them by the UK Government."To have £60 each month deducted from an already low subsistence benefit leaves people unable to heat or eat, let alone choose between one or the other."The replacement of upfront loans with grants would get to the root cause of these deductions and, in doing so, help to reduce the need for food banks in Scotland".Andrew Forsey, national director of the Feeding Britain charity, which operates the Good Food Scotland programme, said: "If he was to reduce significantly the rate of deductions from Universal Credit, the Chancellor would give an immediate financial boost to people on very low incomes at almost no longer-term cost to the Treasury."Stephens submitted a written question to the UK Government asking how many Universal Credit claims were subject to deductions in the most recent month for which data

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