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Universal Credit call from Easter Ross councillor to ease pressure on families struggling during coronavirus crisis


By Philip Murray

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A LIFELINE increase in Universal Credit during the pandemic must be retained, a councillor believes, after calling for Highland Council to lobby the UK government.

Tain and Easter Ross councillor Derek Louden has called on the council to contact UK chancellor Rishi Sunak and urge him to extend the temporary “uplift”, amid concerns over spiralling unemployment figures in the Highlands.

He was speaking during the council’s latest economy and infrastructure committee, during which councillors unanimously approved plans for the local authority to boost back-to-work support across the region.

Cllr Louden said: “As a result of Covid, the chancellor quite rightly put Universal Credit up to make the lives [of those receiving it] a bit less marginal, but that uplift is due to go, and when it goes, the pressure that’s on those families so badly affected, will only increase.

“So I think we should be doing everything we can trying to lobby the chancellor not to reduce the uplift in Universal Credit in the short run.”

Meanwhile, councillors on the committee welcomed the plans for the local authority to team up with other agencies to boost jobs support.

The council has also committed to create work placement and job opportunities to enable more young people to stay and make a life for themselves in the Highlands.

The initiative was sparked in the wake of a worrying rise in unemployment in the region in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainties over Brexit.

Unemployment levels across the Highlands rocketed by 98 per cent between March and October 2020.

Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans said the scheme was vital given that the region could be facing “a real triple whammy here, because we have the seasonal unemployment, we have the effects of Covid, and not least the uncertainties around Brexit, which are causing real issues.”

Ken Gowans - welcome more additional funding that target young people.

4.2 - showing increase in unemployment rate, which is very alarming, I have to say.

Certainly could be a triple whammy here, because we have the seasonal unemployment, we have the effects of Covid and not least the uncertainties around Brexit, which are causing real issues.

Denis Rixson - What struck me right away is how complex this issue is.

He talked about UC figures couple with unemployment - called it "very alarming" and "grim".

Helen Carmichael - We only give them placements for six month... but we had over last few years, good people who came i,to town house. Good workers, obliging, politeand then we cast them away dejected six months later. We give them hope, aspiration, they do a good job and then we clip their wings.

Gordon Adam - On face of it very attractive programme. Six months


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