THE roll-out of the UK Government's controversial universal credit benefits system has cost Inverclyde Council over £2 million.

New figures obtained by the Tele lift the lid on the financial impact UC is having on claimants and the local authority.

Since the benefit was introduced in Inverclyde two years ago, £2.09m has been spent on a mixture of crisis grants, housing support and on staffing costs to help people cope with the new system.

There are now 5,700 UC claimants in Inverclyde with that figure set to rise as more people move onto the system.

According to the council, demand for crisis grants has gone up by a quarter since the benefit came into effect - with £200,000 allocated to the local authority from the Scottish Welfare Fund during the two-year period.

The number of payments made to people has gone up by 36 per cent.

The council has also handed out £200,000 in discretionary housing payments while £90,000 was paid to a partner agency to deliver digital skills and support to residents to help them manage their bills.

A further £800,000 a year has been allocated to provide money advice services, to make up for cuts in Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) grants, and pay for extra staff to deal with the overall impact of welfare reforms.

Inverclyde's MP, Ronnie Cowan, said: "The evidence from charities, stakeholders and from my constituents is overwhelming - the roll-out of universal credit is pushing people into crisis due to waiting times and cuts.

"Locally, it's evident that UC is causing hardship as my office receives representations from individuals, on a daily basis, who are having difficulties navigating the system and receiving welfare support.

"Alongside this, Inverclyde Council has indicated to me it has had to spend substantial sums of money to mitigate the roll-out and this will continue as more people transfer from legacy benefits through managed migration.

"Recently, I met with the chief executive of The Trussell Trust to discuss the rise in foodbank usage and the misery UC is causing individuals and families.

"I've continued to call for the UK Government to get their head out of the sand, stop the roll-out immediately and make the necessary changes to UC so it is fit for purpose.

"It's clear that the Scottish Government’s flexibilities are moving UC in a more positive direction in Scotland, giving people more control over their income - but it is only with fully devolved powers and funding that we can fix the Tories' mess."

Details of the economic impact on the council were revealed by the local authority's chief financial officer, Alan Puckrin, in a letter to the Scottish Parliament's social securities committee.

But he warned that the cost in monetary and staffing terms is 'understated' and likely to be much higher, due to the variety of welfare reforms taking place.